A study published by Al-Masry Al-Youm on 28 January warns that Israel intends to both pressurize and encourage Egypt to give away a 720-kilometer stretch of land in Sinai, extending from the border with Gaza to Arish, after President Mubarak leaves power.
The objective of this Israeli scheme is to expand the Gaza strip, whose area is currently 360 square kilometers. In return, Egypt would receive an equal amount of land in the Negev Desert as well as benefiting from investment projects implemented by western companies. The goal ultimately is for Israel to retain the same amount of land in the West Bank in a final settlement establishing a Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza.
Reserve Major General Giora Eiland from the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies–who was responsible for a study titled "Regional Alternatives for the Idea of Two States for Two Peoples"–said that Washington had told Israel that it would be better to postpone pursuing such a scheme until Mubarak leaves power.
It should be clear, however, that the idea of encroaching on Sinai and using its land for Zionist expansionist plans, following the signing of the peace treaty with Egypt, has for a long period preoccupied Israeli political thought. The chief of the Mafdal Party of Israel impudently incorporated this idea in his party platform in the late 1990s. He even announced at the Knesset that the West Bank could no longer accommodate both the Israelis and Palestinians, suggesting that Palestinians be expelled from the West Bank and resettled in Sinai within the framework of a regional settlement in which Egypt would contribute part of its land.
At that time I wrote several articles in Al-Ahram, Al-Wafd and other Arabic papers warning about these sugar-coated plans whose main goal is to give way to expansionist schemes and expel the Palestinian people from their land.
The current phase of the project makes do with seizing 720 square kilometers of land in the West Bank in exchange for an equal area of land for the Palestinians in Sinai. The long-term plan however is to capture the entire West Bank, according to the so-called "concept of transfer"–or the eviction of Palestinians.
Let’s suppose, hypothetically, that the first, proposed phase is implemented. Would this be as far as it goes, given that there’s a secular-rightist-religious trend gaining increasing ground in Israel and wiping out the concept of land-for-peace? Does anyone think that the radical organizations which have controlled public opinion in Israel and infiltrated the executive and the armed forces would give up the West Bank, even in exchange for peace?
The scheme is but the first step on a much longer road. The next phase will be to stir up an armed confrontation with the Palestinians in the West Bank to drive them into Jordan and on to the "expanded Gaza." Then Israel will claim a bigger part of Sinai to accommodate the great numbers of Palestinians expelled from the West Bank.
Now let’s go back to the US administration’s advice to the Israelis to put their plans on hold until Mubarak leaves and another president assumes power. Such advice signifies that the peace process won’t see any genuine progress no matter how much President Obama seems to be trying to breathe life into it.
The Israeli government has ideological goals that belong to the revisionist-Zionist school founded by Jabotinsky–whose ideas were passed on to Begin, Shamir, Sharon and Netanyahu–and to the Zionist-religious school; both of which urge the gobbling up of land in the West Bank in stages to avoid confrontation with the international community.
If expanding Gaza to accommodate the Palestinian people is not achievable during Mubarak’s presidency, then any movement toward a peaceful settlement in the Middle East will remain largely insincere on the part of Israelis so long as Israeli ambitions remain unrealized.
The US administration’s advice also implies that President Mubarak regards Egyptian land as sacred, and is unlikely to give up an inch of Egyptian territory. It’s the kind of classic patriotism which refuses to be persuaded of slogans that call for "transnational ideological unity," of religious ideologies, or of globalization–which promotes the removal of national barriers to empower free markets and transnational companies.
So, do the Americans really believe that the coming Egyptian generation will more easily subscribe to ideas of economic globalization and trade their land for some package of short-term economic gain?
If such an Israeli scheme is in store for us, then perhaps it’s time we alert our youth to the importance of preserving every inch of their land, in the belief that every bit of Egyptian land is sacrosanct.
The government should also go ahead with plans to urbanize and populate Sinai. Such plans are more pressing than ever. Besides, the Delta and Nile Valley are no longer able to absorb the growing population. Most importantly, this is the practical guarantee to thwarting Israeli plans.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.