In April 2017, the term “deal of the century” first appeared during the leader of the Egyptian regime’s visit to the US and his meeting with US President Donald Trump. “You will find me supporting you very strongly and very earnestly in finding a solution to the problem of the century,” Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi told his host. These championing words were enough for Al-Sisi to be the key to Trump’s agenda for peace between the Palestinians and Israel, the aforementioned “deal of the century”.
According to Western political news sites and circles, the plan is to push the Palestinians into Sinai. This shall be done by funding infrastructure projects in the peninsula, with Israel relying on the Egyptian government to pacify, calm and please the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on its behalf.
The plan is based on facilitating Gaza’s affairs for a specific period until the Palestinians there enjoy the freedom that they lost five years ago when Al-Sisi closed the Rafah border, along with promises to solve the humanitarian crisis, keep the border crossing open and establish a port and airport. This has raised hopes in Gaza, only to have them dashed yet again with a suffocating new ban on the entry of fuel and the subsequent incapacitation of public utilities. Meanwhile, the Israeli occupation forces continue to launch sporadic attacks to exhaust the Palestinian resistance and damage its popularity, which has been drained over the long years of the siege.
With the regime in Cairo acting as the Palestinians’ new jailer in Gaza, the enclave will be kept at the mercy of the occupation without Israel having to bear any responsibility for what is happening there.
The US advisor leading on the Palestinian file is Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, a man with close links to illegal Israeli settlements. During a visit to Cairo, Al-Sisi confirmed to Kushner his support for what he called the international efforts and initiatives for a fair and comprehensive deal for the Palestinian cause. In doing so, he once again handed in his papers for tasks beyond simply proving that land in northern Sinai can be used to empty the Gaza Strip, apparently as per the “deal of the century”. Such tasks include the role of the godfather of the deal putting pressure on all and sundry to accept the deal. All of this because Al-Sisi stands to be one of the major beneficiaries of the move, even more than the Palestinians themselves.
He will hit three birds with one stone. For a start, Al-Sisi will find the legitimacy that he has been seeking for five years as America’s go-to man in the region, a role played by Hosni Mubarak before him, thus regaining his position in the Middle East, at least partially. What’s more, he will also rid himself of the annoying military operations in Sinai with the help of the US and Israel, after failing to suppress the “terrorists” on his own. Finally, and most importantly to this government, he will get billions of dollars from the deal, the payment of which has already started.
It has been stressed that Egypt is a major player in the deal because its sovereignty is affected and there are massive benefits for the coup-led regime, which is in serious need of substantial financial support and huge foreign investments in the country. This is what the Trump administration’s release of $195 million in military aid to Egypt really means. The money had been blocked due to concerns about the country’s human rights record. However, Trump has overlooked this in order to push his deal of the century, the final touches of which are being put together with pressure on all parties, especially on the resistance in Gaza.
The $195 million is simply the first instalment of the price paid to Egypt for selling Palestine as part of the deal of the century. However, there are still billions awaiting Al-Sisi’s government, which the US knows will go into the bank accounts of senior officers in the Egyptian armed forces. Washington overlooks this endemic corruption as part of an implicit agreement reached since the peace process in 1979 that senior army officers will loot military aid in exchange for protecting Israel; US military aid to Egypt is, to all intents and purposes, an annual payment to Israel’s private security guards.
Now, this sum and much more has become available to the Egyptian government as the price for selling one of the most sacred issues in the Arab and Muslim world. The names of this generation of Egyptian army officers will join those of their predecessors who signed the peace deal with Israel in history’s roll call of shame. Future generations will look back at the list and curse them.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 30 July 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.