Israel’s far-right government is actively pushing Palestinians to leave the Gaza Strip, asking a number of European and Middle Eastern countries to absorb them, and is offering to arrange their flights if they agree to emigrate. A senior official accompanying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a diplomatic visit to Ukraine this past week disclosed the policy.
The unnamed official told reporters yesterday that Israel is in contact with third countries to see if they would be willing to absorb Palestinians from the besieged enclave, adding that “Israel is even willing to arrange transportation for them, at least to one of the airports in the Negev and arrange for them to travel out of the country.”
The policy bears striking resemblance to an idea floated by some of Israel’s most extreme racist parties, most notably Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power). Last month the Kahanist party launched its campaign for the country’s upcoming September election by calling for the expulsion of all Palestinians, both from the occupied Palestinian territories and Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel.
The party’s leader, Michael Ben Ari, told audiences: “We want to resettle our enemies in their countries […] we’ll give them a bottle of mineral water and even a sandwich. We’ll find them countries of origin they can go to.” Israel’s National Security Council has been spearheading the initiative, with Netanyahu’s blessing, for about a year, Haaretz reported, citing the official. The Israeli daily added that the program has also been discussed several times by Israel’s security cabinet.
Hadash lawmakers slammed the revelation, with Joint MK Yousef Jabareen writing on Twitter: “The country that should welcome Palestinians from Gaza is Israel which, along with its obligation to remove the blockade on Gaza, should respect UN resolutions regarding Palestinian refugees as a part of a just and peaceful solution to the conflict.”
According to MK Aida Touma-Sliman: “Caged, starved and stripped of their human rights – the Gazans have to choose between death by poverty or sniper fire, or leaving their homeland. This is ethnic cleansing à la Netanyahu, understated as ‘encouraged migration.’ Moreover, they still maintain that Israel left Gaza a while ago.”