By Dr. Abdellatif El-Menawy*
Concerns over the US’ soon-to-be-announced Middle East peace plan,
dubbed “the deal of the century” by many politicians, are growing in
many countries, especially Egypt and Jordan, where some leaks indicated
the possibility of resettling millions of Gaza’s population in Egypt’s
Sinai Peninsula and Jordan’s Negev desert.
This was denied by the US administration, as Jason Greenblatt, the
US Special Envoy to the Middle East and one of those involved in
preparing the plan, said such reports were totally false. “Jordan is a
strong US ally and rumors that our peace vision includes a confederation
between Jordan, Israel and the PA (Palestinian Authority), or that the
vision contemplates making Jordan the homeland for Palestinians, are
incorrect,” he said. Greenblatt concluded his statement on Twitter last
week with “please do not spread rumors.”
The situation around “the deal of the century” is witnessing further
complications as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised,
just days before this month’s national elections, to extend Israeli
sovereignty to West Bank settlements.
The PA has already voiced its rejection of the expected plan, since President Donald Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and transferred the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv. There is also a rumor circulating that the plan will see Abu Dis made the Palestinian capital. We most certainly will not adopt the leaked information, nor will we totally believe the statements of Americans, as we know them very well.
However, as an Egyptian citizen who has lived through the Arab-Israeli conflict — especially after the October 1973 war and the following peace treaty — I am allowed to bring up some of what has previously happened with the land-for-peace concept. This is an old idea, which was first proposed by the Israelis to late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat during peace negotiations. The concept was to offer part of the Negev desert if Egypt relinquished parts of the Sinai. Surprisingly, Sadat agreed, provided that he was allowed to choose the land Egypt would receive. The shrewd president chose Eilat, the only Israeli port on the Red Sea. Predictably, the Israelis rejected such a condition.
Attempts continued during the era of President Hosni Mubarak, who
refused to even discuss the idea, despite all temptations and pressures.
We do not know what happened during the Muslim Brotherhood’s one-year
rule. There is evidence that the Brotherhood offered concessions or
commitments, probably in line with the document of Giora Eiland,
Israel’s former national security adviser, written in early 2010. The
long and detailed document included a suggestion offered by the US
administration to Arab countries to improve their relations with Israel
in exchange for the ceding of some lands. The only thing Arab countries
have, and Israel and Palestine desperately need, is land, so if these
countries relinquished small parts, a great improvement could be
achieved for both states.
Eiland’s document was designed to establish the basis for the agreement.
It stipulated that Egypt would relinquish to Gaza some 720 square
kilometers of land, including the Strip being extended 24 kilometers
along the Mediterranean coast from Rafah in the west to Arish, and a
strip of land west of Kerem Shalom in the south. On that basis, the Gaza
Strip would increase in size from 365 to more than 1,000 square
kilometers. In exchange for the lands relinquished to Palestine by
Egypt, Israel would give the latter a similar area in the southwest of
The document tried to show the benefits that Egypt would reap from the
land exchange. The first benefit would be for Israel to give Egypt the
right to dig a canal connecting it with Jordan, thus allowing movement
between the two countries without the need for Israeli approval.
Moreover, oil pipes would be constructed across Iraq and Jordan, and
Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries to the south, bringing great
Another reward would be water and energy, as the document stated that
the international community would grant Egypt huge investments from the
World Bank to finance water desalination plants and nuclear reactors to
generate electricity. The document also said that Egypt would be allowed
to make changes to the peace accord’s military annex.
However, the recent leaks about Jordan and Egypt’s rejection of the
annexation of their territories pushed the other party in the deal
(Israel) and its cook (the US) to think of an alternative — the
naturalization of Palestinians in both Jordan and Egypt. Proposals
included mechanisms to ensure the entry and exit of Palestinians through
border crossings, along with the establishment of Palestinian
industrial projects. Egyptian laws would be decided later, with the
possibility of granting Palestinians citizenship according to specific
conditions. In exchange, it was said that Cairo would be granted $65
billion in several payments, along with projects in North Sinai to be
able to handle the expected increase in the number of workers.
The one sure thing is that Egypt’s current leadership, based on firm
ethical principles, is against the idea of a land exchange and totally
rejects the idea of ceding any Egyptian land to resolve any dispute.
The coming days will reveal many things, but we will have to wait until
after Ramadan to see the much-anticipated peace plan. Trump’s senior
adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is one of the main architects
of “the deal of the century,” told Time magazine that the plan will not
be unveiled until early June.
Dr. Abdellatif El-Menawy is a critically acclaimed multimedia
journalist, writer and columnist who has covered war zones and conflicts
worldwide. Twitter: @ALMenawy
1. US Security from Michael_Novakhov (88 sites)