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Israel's Smotrich repeats call for displacement of Gazans

Israel's Smotrich repeats call for displacement of Gazans after war
3 min read
31 December, 2023
Extremist Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich has doubled down on calls for the expulsion of Palestinians from Gaza and their replacement by settlers.
Israeli extremist minister Bezalel Smotrich has a history of incitement against Palestinians [Photo by GIL COHEN-MAGEN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]

Israel's extremist finance minister Bezalel Smotrich has repeated his call for the displacement of Palestinians from Gaza following the end of the war in a series of comments made in Israeli media over the weekend.

Speaking to Israel's Channel 12, Smotrich, who leads the extreme-right Religious Zionism bloc in the Knesset, said Israel should "encourage wilful emigration" of Gaza's population after the war, adding that "we need to find countries willing to take them in".

During the interview he also said he was in favour of "completely changing the reality in Gaza, having a conversation about settlements in the Gaza Strip" and having a presence in Gaza "in a civilian fashion" as well as retaining security control over the enclave.

Israel's indiscriminate bombardment of Gaza has forced nearly all of the territory's population from their homes and killed over 21,800 people.

Israel removed its settlements from Gaza in 2005, but has expanded them in the occupied West Bank, in violation of international law.

Smotrich, who has a history of racist incitement against Palestinians, was himself arrested for protesting against the 2005 withdrawal.

In a later interview with Israel's Army Radio Smotrich doubled down on what he told Channel 12, saying "we need to encourage immigration from there. If there were 100,000-200,000 Arabs in the Strip and not two million, the whole conversation about after [the war] would be completely different".

He also labelled Gaza a "ghetto" and stated that "Gazans are not innocent", adding that he is against the delivery of fuel into the devastated territory which he claims is "power for terrorism and the tunnels".

Around half of Gaza's 2.3 million people are children, with Gaza's health ministry stating that 900,000 are suffering from cold, hunger and a lack of drinking water. Likewise, 50,000 pregnant women suffer from malnutrition due to the food shortage.

According to Gaza's health ministry, 21,822 Palestinians have been killed by Israel's military campaign in the enclave, with a further 56,451 injured.

On Saturday the UN's Agency for Palestine Refugees estimated that 40 percent of the population of Gaza are at risk of famine and urgently called for the delivery of supplies into the enclave.

Smotrich's comments come amid a deepening rift between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his far-right coalition partners like Smotrich and national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Much of the friction comes from the extremist ministers being excluded from discussions on what the post-war situation in Gaza will look like. So far, this has been the exclusive preserve of the war cabinet, which Smotrich and Ben-Gvir are excluded from.

Smotrich's continued insistence on not releasing taxes collected for the Palestinian Authority (PA) has prompted criticism from the US which has advocated for the release of the money.

The US also insists that the PA should be involved in governing Gaza, not Israel, following an end to the war.

The friction within the cabinet, and the refusal to release the taxes, led to Biden making a phone call to Netanyahu that was described as "frustrating" according to Axios.

During the call Biden said he expected Netanyahu to challenge far-right members of his coalition.