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memri
July 3, 2018 No.
7551

Owner Of Egyptian Daily: Egypt Paid A Heavy Price For Rejecting An American Proposal For A Settlement With Israel In The 1950s

Salah Diab, Egyptian businessman and owner of the Al-Masri Al-Yawm daily, who writes under the pen name "Newton," published an article on January 24, 2018 headlined "The Price of Refusal," about Egypt's rejection of a proposal for a settlement to end the Arab-Israeli conflict.

As part of this proposal – an American-British initiative dubbed "Operation Alpha," which was submitted to Israel and Egypt in 1955 – Israel was to return to Egypt the territories in the southern Negev that it had conquered in 1948, and to absorb 75,000 Arab refugees and pay reparations to the rest, in exchange for the lifting of the Arab boycott and recognition of Israel by the Arab world. Both Egypt and Israel rejected the proposal, and it was finally shelved after Egypt chose to disconnect from the West and support the Eastern Bloc headed by the Soviet Union.[1]

In his article Newton bemoans the fact that the Egyptians rejected the plan, claiming that had they accepted it, "everything would have been completely different": Egypt would have avoided all its wars with Israel, its losses and casualties and the waste of extensive resources, and wouldn't have reached the situation in which it finds itself today. Newton claims that the proposal was offered up on a silver platter and that, in their current situation, the Arabs can only dream of a better proposal. He writes that a good statesman would not have rejected such a proposal but rather accepted it "so as to achieve the best possible practical results, which would serve the interests of his people."


Salah Diab, "Newton" (image: elnedaa.com, November 8, 2015)

The following are translated excerpts from the article:[2]

"I studied the proposal submitted by the U.S. to Egypt and the Arabs to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict in 1956 [sic]. What it contains could have altered the course of history.

"The document... contained many points, among them: declaring Arab sovereignty over a sufficiently large area; the right of return for refugees or reparations for those who chose not to return; the return of Arab borderland villages; equal rights for Israeli and Palestinian citizens [of Israel]; the end of the state of war, and agreement about an international formula for the supervision of the holy places in the city of Jerusalem...

"The U.S. sent this document to then prime minister of Israel Ben-Gurion and to [then Egyptian] president Gamal 'Abd Al-Nasser, and the latter totally rejected the clauses of the agreement. What would have happened if 'Abd Al-Nasser had accepted the document in principle and subsequently added or subtracted from it in accordance with the interests of his country and of the Arabs in general? Would it not have saved Egypt from wars and numerous consequences [of those wars]?

"What was the result of rejecting this proposal? [The result was] the refusal of the World Bank to grant Egypt a loan for the establishment of the [Aswan] High Dam. This, [in turn], led to the decision to nationalize the Suez Canal that led to the threefold [British-French-Israeli] aggression against Egypt [in 1956]. Egypt was forced to take a loan from Russia, and today we are witness to [Russia's] ice-cold stance... [manifested in] stopping the flights and the tourism to Egypt...[3]

"What if the 1956 war had never occurred? If we had good relations with Israel and Egyptian territory extended to Jordan, what would the situation be today? Everything would be completely different. We wouldn't have undergone the 1956 war, or experienced the 1967 defeat. We wouldn't have had to mobilize all the resources of the country for the war of liberation and of restoring our dignity in 1973. Were all these wars necessary?

"This alternative [Operation Alpha] was submitted to us at the time on a silver platter, and we transformed it into a platter of fire. This is a document we can only wish for today, and we totally it rejected when it was offered to us. The State of Israel [even then] was a fact on the ground. What was the price of this refusal? Wars, conflicts, battles, and numerous losses that Egypt sustained, which brought us to the situation in which we find ourselves today.

"That same refusal recurred when the Palestinians and the Syrians declined to participate in the Mena House peace talks.[4] A statesman is someone who sees an opportunity, grabs it while it is still there and derives benefit from it, instead of opposing or ignoring it. There is a difference between a statesman and a fighter. A fighter can shout and demonstrate and present his demands. The situation of a statesman is different. He strives for agreements and compares possibilities so as to achieve the best practical results, which would serve the interests of his people."

 

[1] For the complete text of Operation Alpha see: ecf.org.il/files/M00584_OpAlphaDullesProposal1955English.pdf, from Neil Caplan, Futile Diplomacy, Volume 4: Operation Alpha and the Failure of Anglo-American Coercive Diplomacy in the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1954-1956,  Routledge, 1997.

[2] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), January 24, 2018.

[3] The reference is to Russia's decision to stop flights to Egypt following the crash of Metrojet Flight 9268 from Sinai to Saint Petersburg in October 2015, in which all 224 passengers and crew were killed. The crash apparently resulted from an onboard bomb, for which ISIS claimed responsibility. The Russian decision dealt a severe blow to the Egyptian economy.

[4] The reference is to the peace conference that was held on December 14, 1977, following Sadat's visit to Jerusalem, at the Mena House Hotel in Cairo with the participation of representatives from Israel, Egypt, and the U.S., and in the presence of UN observers.