Far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich calls the move the ‘right humanitarian solution’. Critics call it ‘ethnic cleansing’.
Israel’s far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has said “voluntary migration” of Palestinians in Gaza is the “right humanitarian solution” for the besieged enclave and for the region, a stance Palestinian officials likened to supporting “ethnic cleansing”.
Smotrich’s comments come after US lawmakers Danny Danon, the former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, and Ram Ben-Barak, former deputy director of the intelligence agency Mossad, published a comment piece in The Wall Street Journal on Monday suggesting moving some of Gaza’s population to nations that will accept them.
“I welcome the initiative of members of Knesset Ram Ben-Barak and Danny Danon on the voluntary immigration of Gaza Arabs to the countries of the world. This is the right humanitarian solution for the residents of Gaza and the entire region,” Smotrich wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
“A cell with a small area like the Gaza Strip, without natural resources and independent sources of livelihood, has no chance to exist independently, economically and politically, in such a high density for a long time.
“The reception of refugees by the countries of the world that really want their best interests, with the support and generous financial assistance of the international community, and within the state of Israel is the only solution that will bring to the end of the suffering and pain of Jews and Arabs alike.”
“The State of Israel will no longer be able to put up with the existence of an independent entity in Gaza,” he added.
In response to his comments, Mustafa Barghouti, general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, said in a post on X that the minister “revealed the real policy and intentions of the Israeli government”.
“Netanyahu himself said in the beginning of the Israeli war on Gaza that all Gazans must evict their homes. Ethnic cleansing is a war crime and it is done by bombarding an unprotected civilian population.”
Smotrich revealed the real policy and intentions of the Israeli government. Netanyahu himself said in the beginning of the Israeli war on Gaza that all Gazans must evict their homes. Ethnic cleansing is a war crime and it is done by bombarding unprotected civilian population
— Mustafa Barghouti @Mustafa_Barghouti (@MustafaBarghou1) November 14, 2023
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly previously lobbied European leaders to help him convince the Egyptian president to take in refugees from Gaza. Israel’s Ministry of Intelligence had also outlined a proposal to “evacuate” all Palestinians from Gaza to Egypt.
In March, Smotrich received backlash after saying the Palestinian people are “an invention” of the past century, with Palestinian officials blasting his comments as proof of the “racist” outlook of Israel’s far-right government.
In their article on Monday, Danon and Ben-Barak said Europe had a long history of assisting refugees fleeing conflicts, and off of that example, “countries around the world should offer a haven for Gaza residents who seek relocation”.
“Countries can accomplish this by creating well-structured and internationally coordinated relocation programs,” they wrote.
A majority of Palestinians were expelled from their homeland in 1948 during the creation of the state of Israel — an event they refer to as the Nakba, or “catastrophe”.
Most people in Gaza today are the children or grandchildren of those displaced during the Nakba. They now risk being permanently uprooted again, which is a war crime under international law.