BLOG 221 – October 6, 2014
An interesting twist in the Middle East conflict unfolded in late August. The Palestinian Authority (PLO) President Mahmoud Abbas explained that Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi had offered 1,600 square kilometers of land in the Sinai adjacent to Gaza for a Palestinian state. In exchange, the Palestinians would give up the indefensible claim to land in the 1949 armistice settlement. The land offered by Egypt would more than compensate for the area Abbas claims for the Palestinians. It would end the refugee battle with Israel and peace could follow.
Abbas said no! He would rather have his people continue to suffer than accept an alternative to destroying Israel.
Sisi is the first Arab leader to seriously act in a manner that could solve this festering problem. Generations of Israeli leaders have recognized that the PLO demands are impossible to meet without sacrificing themselves. Sisi has made a bold move to end the conflict.
Far from being altruistic, Sisi is actually acting in Egypt’s interest because he recognizes how dangerous the PLO’s campaign against Israel actually is for the Arabs. With the prospects of a nuclear-armed Iran and the wild uprising of the jihadists as well as the appearance of ISIS, the continuing conflict with Israel is not in their interest. Hamas has already made attacks inside Egypt. Consequently, Sisi’s offer is an attempt to take the matter out of the hands of the Palestinian jihadists.
Egypt’s offer and Abbas’ no exposes the old reality: the only basic interest of the PLO is the destruction of Israel. From this perspective, if the price of the ongoing struggle is the suffering of the Palestinian people – then so be it. At the same time, Sisi’s offer demonstrates that the endurance of Israel is changing the game. The surrounding countries are recognizing they profit from Israel’s survival more than their demise. In effect, Sisi’s offer called Abbas’s bluff.
The issue that is now on the table is the continuing support of the USA and Europe to stand behind Abbas and push for a negotiated resolution with Israel. It simply isn’t going to happen. The current American administration has hit bottom with Israeli public because of their inability or refusal to recognize the fundamental realities of the Israel- PLO situation. Sisi’s offer is also a challenge to the single-minded endeavors of Secretary of State John Kerry. Unless Washington switches gears, the status quo in the Israel-PLO struggle will only continue. And the PLO and Hamas will continue to lose.
The key factor in bringing resolution? America and Europe must change their positions. Sisi has an offer on the table.