Israel's Smotrich backs proposal to expel Gaza residents to other countries
Israel’s extremist finance minister has said the "voluntary migration" of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip will solve the humanitarian crisis in the war-battered enclave, amid fears of plans to ethnically cleanse the territory.
"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," Bezalel Smotrich wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
He was referring to a commentary published in The Wall Street Journal on Monday by Knesset members Ben-Barak and Danon, suggesting that Palestinians in Gaza should move to other parts of the world, including Europe and the US.
"One idea is for countries around the world to accept limited numbers of Gazan families who have expressed a desire to relocate," the MKs wrote in their article.
Northern Gaza – now largely encircled by Israeli ground troops - has witnessed a mass exodus of people since the beginning of the war on 7 October, when Israel ordered its 1.1 million residents - around half of the total population of the Gaza Strip - to move south.
Israel has vowed to continue bombarding the enclave through air and ground offensives until it dismantles Hamas, which attacked southern Israel on 7 October, killing around 1,200 people and taking more than 200 hostages.
More than 11,400 people have been killed in Israel's indiscriminate strikes on Gaza, including over 4,000 children. Israel has deliberately targeted schools and hospitals and flattened residential areas.
"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," Smotrich said in his Facebook post.
"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 an end 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.
The Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority’s foreign ministry said that Smotrich’s remarks were "part of Israel’s colonial, racist plan," for the Palestinians, accusing Israel of engaging in a genocide.
It added that the only solution was to end Israeli occupation through international intervention.
Smotrich, who leads the extreme-right Religious Zionism bloc in the Israeli Knesset has a history of making violently racist statements against Palestinians, calling for the West Bank town of Huwara to be "eliminated" earlier this year.
A leaked Israeli document which suggested that mass transfer of Gazans to North Sinai in Egypt would be a favourable option was slammed by Cairo last month, prompting fears of ethnic cleansing and a "second Nakba."
On Tuesday, Egypt’s foreign ministry hit back again at Israel, saying Smotrich’s comments are "an expression of the Israeli government’s policy that violates international laws."
"Any attempt to justify and encourage the displacement of Palestinians outside the Gaza Strip is completely rejected by Egypt and internationally," the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
Israel has already been accused of committing several war crimes since the start of its war on Gaza, including the targeting of hospitals and journalists and the use of white phosphorus.
Jordan has also warned Israel against expelling Palestinians from the occupied West Bank – where daily raids and attacks have killed at least 192 Palestinians since 7 October – saying it would be considered an act of war.