Israeli Ministers’ Proposals Spark Controversy: Palestinian Emigration and Settlers’ Return

As the war between Israel and Hamas rages in the Gaza Strip, two Israeli ministers have provoked strong reactions within the international community. It was first the Minister of Finance and leader of the far-right Religious Zionism party, Bezalel Smotrich, who proposed on Sunday, December 31, the return of Israeli settlers to the Gaza Strip, after the war. “To have security, we must control the territory and for that, we need a civilian presence there,” he explained in an interview with Israeli military radio.

The next day, January 1, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, also head of the Jewish Force party, posted a similar message on his X account: “We must promote the solution to encourage the migration of Gaza residents. “This is a correct, just, moral and humane solution. We have partners around the world that we can help. Encouraging the migration of Gaza residents will allow us to repatriate the residents of Outaf and the residents of Gush Katif.” .

This rhetoric of the return of Jewish settlers to the Gaza Strip refers to Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005, decided by then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Gush Katif, the community cited by Itamar Ben Gvir, is a group of Jewish colonies established in the Gaza Strip from the end of the 1970s. “For the most nationalist Israeli right, there is a real trauma of the disengagement of 2005, which they experienced as a betrayal on the part of Ariel Sharon, analyzes Thomas Vescovi, independent researcher in contemporary history and member of the editorial committee of the Yaani platform. Since 2005, there has therefore been a dream within this right, and particularly among the most extremist parties, to return to the Gaza Strip to reestablish colonies there and even, for the most extremist, to completely expel the Palestinians from the Gaza Strip.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, France and the United States reacted
For the researcher, if these two ministers increase the provocations, it is also to exist politically and satisfy their electorate, even though they are not part of the Israeli war cabinet, formed on October 11, four days after the bloody attacks. of Hamas. An electorate mainly based in Israeli settlements, illegal under international law. “But it is also an electorate based in particularly poor peripheral areas in Israel, notably in the north or in certain areas of Jerusalem where we will have sort of far-right strongholds, with very radical ideas which are both colonial and religious”, describes the researcher.

Thus, the two supremacist ministers who have been on the rise since entering the government in December 2022 are taking advantage of the chaos of the war to radicalize Israeli public opinion and put pressure on the war cabinet. A strategy that could pay off in the long term but which seems unrealistic in the immediate future.

Indeed, the reactions of the international community have followed one another since the words of the two political leaders. The Quai d’Orsay reacted in a press release on January 3: “France condemns the comments of the Israeli Ministers of Finance, Mr. Bezalel Smotrich, and of National Security, Mr. Itamar Ben Gvir”, calling on Israel “to refrain from such provocative statements, which are irresponsible and fuel tensions.” US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller called the remarks “irresponsible”. As for the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, he denounced on Wednesday January 3 the “inflammatory” comments of the two ministers.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, recalled Thursday January 4 that “international law prohibits the forcible transfer of protected persons within an occupied territory or their expulsion from this territory “, indicating that “85% of Gaza residents are already internally displaced.” Qatar and Kuwait also reacted on Thursday.

A colonial balance of power


The ministers, already singled out for racist and homophobic remarks, even proposed countries which could welcome the voluntary Palestinians at the start. The Democratic Republic of Congo as well as Saudi Arabia were cited by the Times of Israel media without any real explanation other than that Saudi Arabia would need foreign labor. However, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in a statement on Thursday January 4 that the kingdom “condemns and categorically rejects the comments of the two ministers”.

The declarations of voluntary emigration and recolonization accentuate Israel’s colonial balance of power over the Palestinians, according to Thomas Vescovi: “In all these proposals, we are faced with colonial management, that is to say that the we are acting with the Gazans without asking their opinion and thinking that we can find a solution by going beyond all their representative bodies, whether it is the PLO, the Palestinian Authority or even local NGOs. Thus, “we are reinstalling the same tools that favored the emergence of Hamas”, warns the researcher, author of The Memory of the Nakba in Israel (ed. L’Harmattan).

Finally, in the midst of this fundamentalist offensive by the Ministers of Finance and National Security, Benjamin Netanyahu observes “a fool’s game”, according to the researcher. The Israeli army is “ensuring that certain areas of Gaza are not reinvested by residents after the war, that they become buffer zones or that colonization takes place.” Which, ultimately, would come closer to the objectives of supremacist ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir.

This article is originally published on francetvinfo.fr

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