Listening to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi during a joint press conference with the prime ministers of Spain and Belgium last Friday, during the first hours of the truce in Gaza, I was reminded of a Syrian TV series in which a figurehead king sat over two tribes, one of which had its horses replaced with goats to make sure that it would not go back to war with the other. “Peace without horses,” said the main character to his nephew, the king. “How humiliating. Is this a decent life with dignity, pride, and the ability to make a decision? You must depend on others to protect your throne? Will you ride the goats they left to fight with?”
Al-Sisi mentioned a proposal for a demilitarised Palestinian state on the pre-Naksa borders of 4 June, 1967 (actually the 1949 Armistice — “Green” — Line) with East Jerusalem as its capital, that would see international forces providing security for both Palestine and Israel. The Egyptian leader also suggested this idea eleven days after Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, and even then it was not a new proposal. He claimed that there is a willingness for the state to be demilitarised, and to allow the presence of forces from NATO, the UN, or Arab or US forces to take the security role.
I believe that this “willingness” can be traced back to Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, who said five years ago, “I support a state within the 1967 borders without an army. I want unarmed police forces with batons, not pistols.” This is consistent with the aspirations expressed by Israelis such as former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001 and current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2009.
What is shocking about Al-Sisi’s statement is that he bypassed the Palestinian people and the resistance, which is a major player in the conflict with Israel, and conveyed the old wishes of the occupation state and the aspirations of a cartoonish authority that is a catastrophe for the Palestinians yearning for liberation. His speech came in the first few hours of the humanitarian truce, in which he played a mediation role along with Qatar and the US. The truce was based on the conditions set by the resistance, which forced the Zionist enemy’s hand and caused it to back down from its previous insistence that there would be no negotiations with Hamas.
With resistance being a strategic option for the Islamic factions in Palestine until their land is liberated from Zionist occupation, it is clear that the statement by the head of the Egyptian regime is consistent with the Israeli and Western vision, as well as that of the PA, in wanting to eliminate legitimate Palestinian resistance. This is the only way that a demilitarised Palestinian state could exist. Al-Sisi has renewed this proposal, which once met with Israeli approval, as an alternative to the two-state solution, which stipulates the establishment of a fully sovereign Palestinian state on the 1967 borders as approved by the UN Security Council. This is what the Arab countries are calling for, but the occupation state rejects it. According to the two-state solution, the Palestinian state would exist on just 22 per cent of historic Palestine.
In pretending to be neutral, Egypt is backing genocide in favour of a state with a dark history of lying and not keeping its promises
If Al-Sisi’s proposal is adopted, and the state is demilitarised and kept secure by foreign forces, the Palestinians would not only lose most of their land, but also lose their sovereignty. It is a shameful proposal, which would leave the indigenous Palestinians easy prey for the apartheid state that flouts international laws and conventions. Israel already, remember, ignores the demands for a humanitarian ceasefire made by the Arab states with which it has normalised relations. In pretending to be neutral, the Egyptian regime is basically backing genocide and proposing to end the Palestinian issue in favour of an occupation state that has a dark history of lying and not keeping its promises.
Israel has, however, rejected the proposal. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Haiat said that while Netanyahu spoke during 2009 and 2010 about a two-state solution with a demilitarised Palestinian state, it is not the current government’s policy, noting that a lot of things have changed since then. Such reservations about Al-Sisi’s statement confirms that he came up with his proposal voluntarily and not in coordination with Israel. Perhaps it is an Israeli manoeuvre to make this “solution” the ceiling of expectations and aspirations for the Arab countries in order to erase the idea of establishing a fully independent, sovereign Palestinian state.
The proposal doesn’t seem to be thought out very well, as it expects a nuclear state to live in peace alongside a demilitarised entity, while also having plans to push its borders beyond Palestine. And the proposal is being put forward and supported by Arab states which stood and waited helplessly for the occupation state’s green light for humanitarian aid to be allowed into Gaza. How on earth can they even think that such a state is interested in lasting peace and allowing a Palestinian state to exist?
The people of occupied Palestine should be the ones who decide their own fate; that’s what self-determination is all about. Nobody else should have a say, especially not the countries which have done nothing constructive to help them for the past 80 years. How can anyone talk about the fate of Palestine while bypassing the wishes of the Palestinians? They have not given up on their desire to liberate all of their land from Zionist occupation. “And Allah has full power and control over His Affairs, but most men know not.”
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Quds Al-Arabi on 26 November 2023
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.