He told me that he had requested the meeting with Morsi and to dissuade him from pursuing a settlement project that would give Palestinians land in Sinai in exchange for handing the West Bank and Jerusalem to Israel. The Palestinian president told Morsi that he was certain the Egyptian people would never agree to relinquishing a portion of their national territory for which they had sacrificed their lives through history. Nor would the Palestinian people ever agree to sacrificing their historical land in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
Much to the Palestinian president’s surprise, Morsi told him that the Palestinians had already agreed to the plan. He explained that the portion of Sinai in question was a natural extension of Gaza and would release the population of the strip from its current narrow and crowded confines. Egypt, for its part, would be compensated by a piece of land of equivalent size from the Negev. Abbas told Morsi that he rejected the plan in his official capacity as the legitimate Palestinian president. Morsi smiled and responded that Abbas was opposed to the plan only because Hamas, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, would be governing the entity in question.
I had previously heard that such a plan existed, but I had never imagined that a president of Egypt would be part of it. That project was one of the reasons why the US had supported the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt. Most of its reasons had to do with Israel.
I included this subject in my memoirs. When I published them, ambassador Mohamed Anis spoke with our mutual friend, Mohamed Kamel Amr who had served as foreign minister in 2013. The former minister said he had not been informed of the plan and had no knowledge of it. However, the Palestinian president himself issued statements to the press that confirmed my account. If anything, this shows how the Morsi government handled matters of such magnitude – through channels that bypassed the ministers concerned. In fact, the person who attended the meeting between Morsi and Abbas was Essam Al-Haddad, Morsi’s adviser for foreign affairs and his fellow Muslim Brotherhood bureau member.
I felt it was important to record this episode for posterity, especially given that one of its main protagonists is still with us and can provide us with the full details for the sake of the historical record.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 19 May, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.