The rumors say that this is part of a wild plan that Israel might welcome in order to get rid of the Palestinians from the West Bank once and for all and to annex it as part of its territory, thus making Theodor Herzl, founder of the Zionist organization and the godfather of the state of Israel, happy in his grave. If all this is true, the Palestinians would be copying the Zionists in their previous attempts to establish a Jewish state in Sinai.
History tells us that Herzl, like all members of his organization a non-religious Jew, made his call for the establishment of a "national home for the Jews" in Palestine his main platform. He declared this at his organization’s conference in Basle, Switzerland, on 24 August 1897. The hidden goal was to establish a Jewish state in Palestine. The first step towards this goal was to encourage Jewish immigration to Palestine that included Russian and Polish Jews such as Golda Meir, Israel's prime minister during the 6 October War, and Moshe Dayan, her former defense minister.
Zionist terrorist groups followed up this strategy by forcing Palestinian residents to sell their land to Jewish settlers or by expelling them by force, with many Palestinians fleeing out of fears of being killed.
However, as an alternative Herzl was also apparently dreaming of establishing a Jewish national home in the Egyptian Sinai. In 1902 he proposed his plans to the British politician Joseph Chamberlain, a member of the cabinet of the then British prime minister Arthur Balfour, famous for his later declaration regarding Jewish aspirations to have a national home in Palestine, commonly known as the Balfour Declaration. The alternative idea was to establish Jewish settlements in Arish and Rafah in Sinai. Chamberlain welcomed the idea, but he had to consult with Britain's foreign minister first, as Egypt had been occupied by Britain since 1882.
The British foreign minister consulted with Lord Cromer, British high commissioner in Egypt and its virtual ruler at the time, who vehemently opposed the idea. First, it would have agitated the Egyptians who were already resisting the British occupation of their land and might have caused their violent uprising. Second, Cromer sensed that Jewish settlement in Sinai with its proximity to Palestine could mean that any new state of Israel could be enlarged to combine Sinai and Palestine.
Sinai is a large desert and mountain area within Egyptian territory bordered by the Gulf of Suez, the gateway to the Suez Canal, and the Gulf of Aqaba. It is also the path to Cairo. Were it to fall into foreign hands, this would threaten the country's security and British interests in Egypt and Asia, Cromer thought, especially in India, at the time the so-called "jewel" in the British crown. In addition, and most importantly, Herzl's proposal would have placed an obstacle to British plans to remove Sinai from Egyptian territory because of its strategic location that could endanger Egypt's security. It was not clear at the time what would be the status of Sinai if Egypt lost its sovereignty over it while the British occupation of Egypt continued. Cromer seemed to have hoped that the British occupation of Egypt would continue forever.
Herzl's proposal was also rejected by the Ottoman sultan. At that time, Egypt had been an Ottoman possession since the Ottoman sultan Selim I had invaded it in 1517. The sultan looked at the idea of establishing a Jewish homeland in the Sinai and then in Palestine as an outright assault on Ottoman territory that would have put Jerusalem, the third holy site for Muslims, in Jewish hands.
The Russian czar at the time, Nicholas II, also strongly opposed the Zionist plan to give the Jews Palestine as a homeland. Russia was then a Christian Orthodox empire, and it was ruled by the Romanov Dynasty. The czar warned England and the Zionist organization against implementing Herzl's proposal that would put Jerusalem, a holy city for the Christian Orthodox faith to which the czar belonged, into Jewish hands. If that happened, the czar would be ready to go to war to stop the Zionist plan, thus going on a new crusade, this time against the Jews and maybe also England, which later also occupied Palestine.
That is why the disappearance of these two powers, the Ottoman and the Russian, from the scene after their defeat in World War I, after which the Ottoman Empire collapsed and the Turks were forced out of Egypt and Palestine, was a golden opportunity for the Zionist movement to increase Jewish immigration to Palestine and to win a declaration by Balfour to express his government's sympathy for Jewish aspirations to establish a homeland there. It is notable that the declaration did not use the phrase "Jewish state", however.
Undoubtedly, the Zionist organization exploited the Jewish people's religious attachment to Sinai. This goes back to their so-called "exodus" from Egypt, led by the prophet Moses, who settled them there and where God spoke to Moses. Sinai has the same religious importance for Muslims as for Christians and Jews. The holy valley in Sinai where God spoke to Moses is also near Saint Catherine's Monastery, which Egyptians regard with complete respect.