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War on Gaza: Israel 'negotiating with African states' to receive exiled Palestinians

A report in an Israeli media outlet says several African countries might be willing to accept those ethnically cleansed from Gaza
Tent camps for displaced Palestinians in Rafah close to the border with Egypt on 31 December (AFP)

Israeli officials are in clandestine talks with several African countries to receive Palestinians from Gaza, the Israeli daily, Zman Yisrael reported on Wednesday. 

The policy to cleanse Gaza of Palestinians wholesale, “is slowly becoming the leading and official policy of the government and the coalition,” the report said. 

Speaking to Zman Yisrael on Tuesday, Israel’s Minister of Intelligence Gila Gamaliel said that "voluntary [emigration] is the best and most realistic plan for the day after the fighting".

According to the report by Zman Yisrael, "Congo" seems willing to accept thousands of Palestinian refugees, although it did not say whether it was referring to the Democratic Republic of Congo or the Republic of Congo.

The Israeli government is keen to say that Palestinians are not being ethnically cleansed from Gaza, but rather that the move would be a “voluntary immigration policy".

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The distinction has been scrutinised because Israeli politicians have explicitly gone on the record laying out plans to make Gaza unlivable for its inhabitants and replace the population with Israeli settlers. 

Another option being floated by the Israeli cabinet on Tuesday is to negotiate with Saudi Arabia to potentially take thousands of Palestinians, the report added.

It is unlikely that Saudi Arabia would want to be seen publicly helping Israel ethnically cleanse the Gaza Strip. 

Historic echoes

The latest Israeli plan also echoes an earlier British plan called the "Uganda Scheme", which sought in 1903 to offer Europe's Jews a state of their own in a part of what is today Kenya. 

The offer, which was ultimately rejected, was a response to pogroms in the Russian empire, and it was hoped the area could be a refuge from persecution for the Jewish people.

Voices in Israel are increasingly open about plans to remove Palestinians from Gaza after the almost three-month bombardment of the besieged Palestinian territory.

The Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich in November backed a plan for the “voluntary migration” of Palestinians.

In addition to Smotrich, the far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said on Monday there should be a “migration of the residents of Gaza” to the outside of the besieged enclave.

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On Tuesday, State Department Spokesman Matthew Miller took the unusual step of directly calling out the two ministers.

“The United States rejects recent statements from Israeli ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir advocating for the resettlement of Palestinians outside of Gaza. This rhetoric is inflammatory and irresponsible,” he said in a statement.

In October an Israeli intelligence ministry document was leaked to the Israeli news site Calcalist detailing purported plans for the forced transfer of Palestinians in Gaza to the Sinai Peninsula.

According to the leaked policy draft, after their expulsion, Gaza's 2.3 million Palestinians would initially be housed in tent cities, before permanent communities could be built in the peninsula’s north.

Cairo has repeatedly rejected the idea that Palestinians could be displaced to Egypt temporarily as Israel carries out its military operation against Hamas in Gaza.

Israel even reportedly proposed writing off a significant chunk of Egypt’s international debts through the World Bank to entice the country's cash-strapped leader Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to open its doors to displaced Palestinians. 

War broke out in Israel and Gaza on 7 October, when Hamas and armed Palestinian groups launched an attack on Israel that resulted in 1,140 Israelis and other nationals dying, according to the government death toll.

Meanwhile, Israel has killed more than 22,000 Palestinians in its aerial bombing campaign and ground assault, with the majority killed being women and children, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

In late December, South Africa filed a case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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