Racist Ministers Call to Expel Gaza’s Palestinians, Build Settlements in Strip

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s two senior far-right partners endorsed the rebuilding of settlements in the occupied Gaza Strip and the encouraging of “voluntary emigration” of Palestinians on Monday, while far-right opposition MK Avigdor Liberman called for Israel to reoccupy southern Lebanon.

Speaking during their parties’ respective faction meetings in the Knesset, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich presented the migration of Palestinian civilians as a solution to the long-running conflict and as a prerequisite for securing the stability necessary to allow residents of southern Israel to return to their homes.

Palestinians queue for a meal that has been prepared by volunteers in Rafah, South Gaza, December 23, 2023 (Photo: Activestills)

The war presents an “opportunity to concentrate on encouraging the migration of the residents of Gaza,” Ben Gvir told reporters and members of his far-right Otzma Yehudit party. “We cannot withdraw from any territory we are in in the Gaza Strip. Not only do I not rule out Jewish settlement there, I believe it is also an important thing,” he said.

The “correct solution” to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “to encourage the voluntary migration of Gaza’s residents to countries that will agree to take in the refugees,” Smotrich told members of his Religious Zionism party, predicting that “Israel will permanently control the territory of the Gaza Strip,” including through the establishment of settlements.

On Monday, Hadash-Ta’al MK Ahmad Tibi told a meeting of his Knesset faction that “Smotrich actually spoke about deporting Palestinians, he called it thinning out the population. Ben Gvir today repeated the idea of deportation or voluntary migration. There is a historical basis for these things, it is a war crime.” Tibi added, “The day will come when these two senior ministers in the Israeli government will stand before an international court for war crimes.” Tibi condemned Smotrich and Ben Gvir, comparing their statements to Nazi calls for “Lebensraum,” or living space, and declaring that such rhetoric was “inciting genocide.”

On December 25 Netanyahu confirmed at the Likud Knesset faction meeting that he was working on the “voluntary immigration” of Gaza residents to other countries. “Our problem is finding countries that are ready to absorb them, and we are working on it,” Netanyahu said. A number of lawmakers, including members of the cabinet, have pushed for the “resettlement” of Palestinians from Gaza, an idea that has been roundly rejected by the international community.

The idea of population transfer, once considered a fringe view held by members of the fascist and racist Kahane movement, was given renewed prominence in mainstream Israeli political discourse this November when MKs Danny Danon (Likud) and Ram Ben-Barak (Yesh Atid) published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, calling for “countries around the world to accept limited numbers of Gazan families who have expressed a desire to relocate,” and their proposal was welcomed by Ben Gvir and Smotrich. Writing in The Jerusalem Post several days later, Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel of Likud mulled the possibility of promoting “the voluntary resettlement of Palestinians in Gaza.”

Related: https://maki.org.il/en/?p=31327