An Israeli Government ministry has drafted a wartime proposal to transfer the 2.3 million people of the Gaza Strip to Sinai Peninsula in the Arab nation of Egypt, which has drawn condemnation from Palestinians and worsening tensions with Cairo.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu office played down a report complied by the intelligence ministry as a hypothetical exercise that is a concept paper. But its conclusions deepened long standing Egyptian fears that Israel wants to make Gaza as a problem of Egypt, and revived for Palestinians memories of the greatest trauma they faced, the uprooting of hundreds and thousands of people who fled or were forced from their homes during the 1948 war which led to the birth of Israel.
“We are against transfer to any place, in any form and we consider it as a redline that we will not be allowed to be crossed,” Nabil Abu Rudeineh spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said the report, “What happened in 1948 will not be allowed to happen again.” and mass displacement would be tantamount to declare a war.
Preserving Security for Israel
The document is dated October 13, 2023, just six days after Hamas terrorists strike Israel. About 1400 people in southern Israel were dead and 240 were taken as hostages in an attack a devastating Israeli war in Gaza.
It was first published by Sicha Mekomit, a local news site. In its report, the Intelliegcne Ministry, a junior ministry does only research but not sets policies offered three alternatives to effect a significant change in civilian reality in the Gaza Strip in light of the Hamas crimes that led to the “Sword of Iron” War.
The document authors deem this alternative to be the most desirable for Israel security. The document proposes movement of the civilians to tent cities in northern Sinai, then permanent build cities and an unidentified humanitarian corridor. A security zone will be established around Israel to block the displaced Palestinians from entering. The report did not say what would become of Gaza once its population has been cleared out.
Response from Egypt
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for the comment for the report. But Egypt has made it clear that throughout this latest war, it does not want any Palestinian refugees. Egypt has long feared that Israel wants to force a permanenet expulsion of Palestinian folk into its country as that happened during the wars associated with the birth of Israel.
Egypt ruled Gaza between 1948 and 1967 when Israel captured its territory along with West Bank and East Jerusalem. The vast majority of the population of the Gaza Strip were Palestinian refugees uprooted from Israel. President Abdel Fatah El-Sissi has said that mass influx of refugees from Gaza will eliminate the Palestinian nationalist cause.
It will also risk bringing militants in the Sinai, where they might launch an attack on Israel, he said. Doing that will endanger the 1979 (Israel- Egypt Treaty). He proposed that Israel house the refugees in its Negev Desert Region which is adjacent to the Gaza Strip, until it ends its military operations. Yoel Guzansky, the senior fellow at the Institution of National Security Studies in Tel Aviv said that the paper threatened to damage relations with a friendly partner.
If this paper was true, it is a grave mistake. It might cause a strategic rift between Israel and Egypt said Guzansky who has consulted the ministry in the past. “I see it either ignorance or someone who wants to negatively affect the Israel-Egypt Relations.
Other Possible Destinations
Egypt is not the only last stop of Palestinian refugees. The document speaks about Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as other possible destinations. At the first glance, this proposal is liable to be complicated in terms of international legitimacy.
In our assessment, fighting after the population is evacuated would lead to fewer civilian casualties compared to what could be expected if the population were to remain.”
An Israeli official familiar with the document said it is not binding and that there was no substantive discussion of it with security officials. Netanyahu’s office called it a “concept paper, the likes of which are prepared at all levels of the government and its security agencies.”
“The issue of the ‘day after’ has not been discussed in any official forum in Israel, which is focused at this time on destroying the governing and military capabilities of Hamas,” the prime minister’s office said.
The document dismisses the two other options: reinstating the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority as the sovereign in Gaza, or supporting a local regime. Among other reasons, it rejects them as unable to deter attacks on Israel.
The reinstatement of the Palestinian Authority, which was ejected from Gaza after a weeklong 2007 war that put Hamas in power, would be “an unprecedented victory of the Palestinian national movement, a victory that will claim the lives of thousands of Israeli civilians and soldiers, and does not safeguard Israel’s security,” the document says.