Credible politicians should not indulge in self-deception, but that’s exactly what Ayoub Kara, the Israeli minister-without-portfolio, did recently.
On February 14, a day before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump were due to hold their first formal meeting at the White House, Kara floated a ridiculous trial balloon that quickly ran out of air.
Kara claimed they would discuss a variant of the two-state solution, a purported Egyptian plan to create a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip — which has been controlled by Hamas for almost the past decade — and in parts of the Sinai Peninsula, which is sovereign Egyptian territory.
“Trump and Netanyahu will adopt the plan of Egypt’s Sisi,” he wrote in reference to Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi. “A Palestinian state in Gaza and Sinai instead of Judea and Samaria. This is how we will pave a path to peace.”
Kara’s plan, supposedly based on an Egyptian proposal, is little more than a mirage in the desert, a glaring example of “fake” news.
When it first surfaced in 2014, Egypt unequivocally distanced itself from it, while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejected it out of hand. Yet for reasons that have yet to be explained, Kara continued to flog a dead horse, resurrecting a baseless idea that has no legs. Is he one of those myopic types who can’t distinguish between reality and fantasy?
Netanyahu, following his recent meeting with Trump, denied it had ever come up for discussion.
Sisi’s spokesman, Alaa Yousef, was even more emphatic. “It’s unimaginable to get into such unrealistic and unacceptable proposals, especially in Sinai, which is a dear part of the nation” he said, nipping Kara’s notion in the bud.
Despite Egypt’s unambiguous disavowal of the plan, Egyptian nationalists felt a need to administer a coup de grace. Human rights lawyer Khalid Ali and several of his colleagues filed a law suit against the Egyptian government to ensure that Palestinians are never resettled in Sinai.
They need not worry. Egypt has no intention of ceding even an inch of Sinai to the Palestinians. Egypt remains committed to a two-state solution in the West Bank and Gaza, where the majority of Palestinians live.
The only ones who will give this far-fetched plan even a scintilla of consideration are blinkered right-wing Israeli politicians opposed to relinquishing the West Bank within the framework of a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
About 10 years ago, I interviewed such a politician, an up-and-coming operator from Israel’s national religious camp who raised the prospect of resettling hundreds of thousands of West Bank Palestinians in the Sinai, which Israel occupied from 1967 until the 1980s. When I asked him whether he truly believed Egypt would buy into his plan, he answered in the affirmative, thereby eliminating himself as a realistic person who can be taken seriously.
Unfortunately, the Israeli political landscape is littered with mainstream politicians who sincerely believe in pipe dreams. One of these dreams is that Israel can forever subjugate the Palestinians by occupying the West Bank and denying them real self-determination within the context of statehood. These pols seem to think the Palestinians will be content with autonomy — the right to collect their own garbage.
Netanyahu may be smarter than that, but of late, he has stopped talking about the two-state solution, to which, in any event, he has paid only lip service while continuously expanding Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Tellingly enough, he omitted references to Palestinian statehood in the communique he and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull issued at the end of his state visit to Australia last week.
Israel is heading in the wrong direction if it thinks it can shelve the Palestinian problem and hope for the best.