Sat 02 Dec 2023 3:42 pm - Jerusalem Time
Egypt Concerned by US Plan to Displace Palestinians to Neighboring Countries
Cairo fears that Israel is continuing its efforts to displace the Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, pushing them by various means towards Egyptian territory and other nearby countries.
Israel Hayom newspaper published this week a report saying Israel submitted a new initiative to the US Congress calling for conditioning American aid to Arab countries on their willingness to receive refugees from Gaza.
The Israeli proposal, which reportedly has support from senior officials in Republican and Democratic parties, calls on the US to condition foreign aid to Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, and Türkiye for accepting a certain number of refugees.
It said those countries will accept “voluntary, not forced” migration of Palestinians to their territories. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has already categorically rejected a forced resettlement of Palestinians in his country. He has expressed his country’s “rejection and denouncement of policies of displacement or attempts to eradicate the Palestinian cause at the expense of neighboring countries.”
Earlier this week, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said forced displacement remains a goal for Israel, “as it seeks to drive Palestinians from their land by making life in the Gaza Strip impossible.”
In the early stages of the war on Gaza, the US administration announced it would oppose the forced displacement of Gaza residents from the enclave.
On Friday, Israel Hayom said the Israeli proposal was shown to key figures in the House and Senate from both parties. It said Rep. Joe Wilson has expressed open support for it and described the proposal as “the only moral solution to ensure that Egypt opens its borders and allows for the refugees to flee from the control of Hamas and Israel.”
Wilson said the US Government provides Egypt with approximately $1.3 billion in foreign aid, and these funds can be allocated to the refugees from Gaza who will be allowed into Egypt. He noted that Egypt should not shoulder the entire burden, but other regional countries should chip in. “Iraq and Yemen receive an approximate $1 billion in US foreign aid, and Türkiye receives more than $150 million,” he said, adding that each of these countries receive enough foreign aid and have a large enough population to be able to accept refugees adding up to less than 1% of their population.
Former Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy described the proposal as a “political hallucination,” noting that Israelis have for years adopted a strategy aimed at decreasing the Palestinian populations in Gaza and the occupied West Bank. Fahmy told Asharq Al-Awsat that even if Washington adopted such a proposal, Egypt firmly rejects any measures to eradicate the Palestinian cause, including the forced displacement of Gazans.
Last month, Cairo publicly condemned Israel’s far-right finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, who said the “voluntary migration” of Palestinians is the “right humanitarian solution” for Gaza.
Smotrich was commenting on an op-ed piece written by Danny Danon and Ram Ben-Barak published for the Wall Street Journal last month, calling for “countries around the world to accept limited numbers of Gazan families who have expressed a desire to relocate.”
On Friday, Rakha Ahmed Hassan, a member of Egypt's foreign affairs committee, who served as the country's ambassador to Germany, described the new proposal referred to by Israel Hayom as “unrealistic.” Hassan told Asharq Al-Awsat that the displacement of Palestinians could not be compared to hosting of Syrian refugees by Egypt and other countries. “The Syrian crisis is temporary and the displaced Syrians will return home.”
However, he said, sending Palestinians from Gaza to neighboring countries means the complete eradication of the Palestinian cause and the end of “any hopes to establish an independent state.”