UK rejects 'any suggestion' of forced displacement out of Gaza, says territory will be part of Palestinian state

UK rejects 'any suggestion' of forced displacement out of Gaza, says territory will be part of Palestinian state
A UK foreign ministry spokesperson said Gaza 'will be part of a future Palestinian state', adding that Britain 'firmly rejects any suggestion' of resettlement.
4 min read
04 January, 2024
The UK's Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office said: 'Gaza is occupied Palestinian territory and will be part of a future Palestinian state' [Andrew Aitchison/In pictures/Getty-file photo]

The UK has said Gaza will be part of a future Palestinian state, rejecting "any suggestion" of the devastated enclave's population being resettled elsewhere.

The British statement, published on Wednesday, came as several countries condemned remarks advocating resettlement by far-right Israeli government ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir.

A spokesperson for the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office said: "Gaza is occupied Palestinian territory and will be part of a future Palestinian state.

"The UK firmly rejects any suggestion of the resettlement of Palestinians outside of Gaza.

"We share the concerns of our allies and partners that Gazans should not be subject to forcible displacement or relocation from Gaza."

While the UK's statement did not mention Ben-Gvir or Smotrich, it came amid rebukes of their comments from the US, the Netherlands, the European Union, and Qatar.

"We want to encourage wilful emigration [of Palestinians from Gaza], and we need to find countries willing to take them in," Smotrich told Israel's Channel 12 last Saturday.

On Monday, Ben-Gvir not only echoed Smotrich's remarks but went further, saying that Israel should send Jewish settlers to repopulate the Palestinian enclave.

"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 told members of his Jewish Power party.

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US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller on Tuesday said Washington rejects remarks by Smotrich and Ben-Gvir advocating for Palestinians to be forcibly displaced from Gaza.

"This rhetoric is inflammatory and irresponsible," Miller said.

"We have been told repeatedly and consistently by the government of Israel, including by the Prime Minister [Benjamin Netanyahu], that such statements do not reflect the policy of the Israeli government. They should stop immediately."

Miller said the US has been unequivocal that Gaza is Palestinian land and will remain so, with "Hamas no longer in control of its future and with no terror groups able to threaten Israel".

Ben-Gvir doubled down following the State Department's criticism, saying "we are not another star in the American flag" on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

"The United States is our best friend, but before everything else, we will do what is good for the State of Israel: The emigration of hundreds of thousands from Gaza will allow [Israeli] residents [of the border area] to return home and live in security and protect IDF [army] soldiers," he added.

On Wednesday, The Times of Israel said that so-called "voluntary" migration was "slowly becoming a key official policy of the government".

Citing its Hebrew edition Zman Israel, the news website reported that there were secret discussions with Congo and other countries about receiving thousands of Gazans.


A high-level Israeli security cabinet source reportedly said: "Congo will be willing to take in migrants, and we're in talks with others."

It was not clear how any emigration from Gaza could be voluntary given the mass devastation caused by Israel's war, which has so far killed more than 22,400 people in the Palestinian territory.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Wednesday condemned "inflammatory" and "irresponsible" comments by Smotrich and Ben-Gvir "slandering the Palestinian population of Gaza & calling for a plan for their emigration".

The Dutch foreign ministry also said recent comments made by the two ministers concerning resettlement were "irresponsible", adding that Amsterdam rejects "any calls for Palestinian displacement from Gaza or reduction of Palestinian territory".

The remarks by Smotrich and Ben-Gvir underscore fears in much of the Arab world that Israel wants to drive Palestinians off their land in a repeat of the 1948 Nakba ("catastrophe" in Arabic).

The episode saw some 750,000 people ethnically cleansed alongside the Israeli state's creation, with some displaced internally within historic Palestine and others to countries including Jordan and Lebanon.

The Qatari foreign ministry said on Thursday that Doha "condemns in the strongest terms" Smotrich and Ben-Gvir's comments about the forced displacement of Gazans, the reoccupation of the enclave, and the construction of settlements.

"[Qatar] also considers these statements an extension of the [Israeli] occupation's approach in violating the rights of the brotherly Palestinian people, a contempt for international laws and agreements, and its toxic attempts to block the way to peace opportunities, especially the two-state solution," the ministry said.

The ministry added that it "affirms that the policy of collective punishment and forced displacement practised by the occupation authorities against the residents of Gaza will not change the fact that Gaza is Palestinian land, and will remain Palestinian".

Saudi Arabia rejected "the extremist remarks by two ministers in the Israeli occupation government", a statement from Riyadh's foreign ministry said on Thursday.

The Saudis did not name the ministers in question but said they had called for the displacement of Gaza's population, the reoccupation of the strip, and the building of settlements.

While Israel ended its permanent ground presence in Gaza in 2005, evacuating its settlements in the enclave, the territory continues to be occupied according to international law.

A crushing Israeli-led blockade, tightened since the start of the war, enables Tel Aviv to dictate who and what enters and exits Gaza.

Reuters contributed to this report.