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Egyptian lawyer files lawsuit against settling Palestinians in Sinai

Feb. 19, 2017 7:10 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 20, 2017 9:38 A.M.)
Egyptian lawyer Khalid Ali
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A group of Egyptian human rights lawyers have filed a lawsuit to prevent the establishment of “foreign settlements” in the Sinai Peninsula, following reports that Israel was discussing the option of forcibly resettling Palestinians to the Egyptian territory in lieu of establishing a Palestinian state in the occupied West Bank.

Prominent human rights lawyer and activist Khalid Ali announced on Facebook on Saturday that he, along with other human rights lawyers including Tariq al-Awadi and Malik Adli, had filed the case in an Egyptian administrative court.

The suit comes days after Israeli Minister Ayoub Kara said on Twitter that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would discuss with US President Donald Trump an alleged proposal by Egyptian President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi to establish an independent Palestinian state in Gaza that extended into the Sinai Peninsula.

Netanyahu and Egyptian authorities denied such plans existed and several sources have claimed that the entire deal was a farce and had not existed in the first place..

However, Ali argued that “The suggestion of settling Palestinians in Sinai is not a dream or illusion, but rather a serious plan adopted by the Zionist entity (Israel) to move all residents of the West Bank to Sinai.”

Ali said Israeli motivations behind such a move would be to ultimately make Jerusalem the state of Israel’s undivided capital -- denying Palestinian claims to the occupied city -- insisting that “this is why we need to take serious steps towards resisting this plan.”

The lawyer cited decrees issued by former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2002 and 2004 that approved an agreement with the Union for the Mediterranean to resettle citizens from a “third nation” in Egyptian lands, as a potential legal precedent that could pave the way for the alleged Israeli-Egyptian plan.

Ali said that his lawsuit called for the cancellation of Mubarak's decrees, and called on al-Sisi to issue a new decree prohibiting the settlement of any foreign nationals in Sinai.

Ali’s colleague Adli told Egyptian state-run media outlet Ahram Online that since there was “no transparency” in Egyptian government policy, as evidenced by the Tiran and Sanafir agreement, “we need to take precautionary actions using the tools at our disposal as lawyers.”

“We welcome any Palestinian refugees, but not in a border area of national security concern, and because this does not comply with Egypt’s historical position supporting the two-state solution and the preservation of the Palestinian identity,” Adli said, adding that such a plan “would be solving the Israeli problem, and not the Palestinian one.”

In a statement to privately owned Egyptian TV channel DMC late on Thursday, Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad Abu Zeid affirmed that Egypt’s stance on the two-state solution was “clear and known to all parties,” asserting that the two-state solution was the basis of the current international consensus in both the United Nations Security Council and the Quartet on the Middle East -- the European Union, the UN, Russia, and the US.

“(Egypt’s position) goes in line with the aspirations of the Palestinian people to establish an independent state on their own land with East Jerusalem as its capital,” Abu Zeid reportedly said.

However, the stability of the international community's commitment to the two-state solution took a major blow when the newly instated US president Donald Trump casually stated Wednesday that he could “live with either” a one- or two-state solution during his first press conference with Netanyahu.

Meanwhile, a growing number of Palestinian activists have also criticized the two-state solution as unsustainable and unlikely to bring durable peace given the existing political context, proposing instead a binational state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians.
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