The Egypt-Israel peace treaty, which was the result of the historic Camp David Accords of 1978, has for decades, been considered the cornerstone ensuring regional peace and stability in Arab relations with Israel.
But even such treaties with large state actors (also Jordan) are increasingly under threat due to October 7 and the ongoing Gaza War, as Egypt has reportedly warned the US and Israel that if the floodgates break on Palestinian refugees pouring into its country, “a rupture” in relations between Egypt and Israel would likely result.
A scenario wherein a huge number of Gazan refugees flee into Sinai would be seen as a serious threat to Egypt’s national security, Axios reports.
“The close relations between Egypt and Israel, especially between the military and intelligence services, have been critically important at several points in the war, including around the release of hostages,” the report underscores.
There have long been accusations and media reports saying that Israel’s military is seeking to push Gazans en masse into Sinai and that among strategy ‘options’ would be the establishment of tent cities for Palestinians in the Sinai desert.
“An Israeli government ministry has drafted a wartime proposal to transfer the Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million people to Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, drawing condemnation from the Palestinians and worsening tensions with Cairo,” The Associated Press learned in late October.
Netanyahu’s office had confirmed that it was a real discussion, but among the many potential paths:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office played down the report compiled by the Intelligence Ministry as a hypothetical exercise—a “concept paper.” But its conclusions deepened long-standing Egyptian fears that Israel wants to make Gaza Egypt’s problem and revived for Palestinians memories of their greatest trauma—the uprooting of hundreds of thousands of people who fled or were forced from their homes during the fighting surrounding Israel’s creation in 1948.
A number of human rights organisations and activists have condemned this scenario as a form of ethnic cleansing, given that it would likely result in the permanent removal of these populations from the land. The thinking is that massive groups of Palestinians being pushed into Sinai would never be allowed to return by the Israeli security apparatus.
Already, the United Nations’ refugee office has estimated that some 85% of the Gaza Strip’s population has been displaced by the IDF’s ground operations and aerial bombardment. This is nearly 1.9 million people. Many of these have fled to Rafah, which is the main city and crossing that sits on the border with Egypt.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry issued a rare preemptive condemnation concerning Israeli war plans on Thursday. He told the Aspen Security Forum in Washington, DC, that it would be “inappropriate and in contradiction of international law” if Palestinian civilians were displaced to Egypt.