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Israel-Palestine war: Israeli minister calls for 'voluntary migration' of Palestinians

Bezalel Smotrich backs proposals by Knesset members for 'countries of the world' to accept an influx of Palestinian refugees from Gaza
Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich attends an inauguration event for Israel's new light rail line for the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, in Petah Tikva, Israel, 17 August 2023 (Reuters)
Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich attends an inauguration event for Israel's new light rail line for the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, in Petah Tikva, Israel, 17 August 2023 (Reuters)

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich on Tuesday said he backs a proposal by Knesset members Ram Ben Barak and Danny Danon for the “voluntary migration” of Palestinians.

In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Barak and Danan had called for “countries of the world” to accept an influx of refugees from Gaza. 

The finance minister and de facto governor of the occupied West Bank hailed the proposition as the “only solution” for the 2.3 million population of the besieged strip, who have become “a symbol of the ambition of exterminating the state of Israel”.

“The majority of Gaza's population is the fourth and fifth generation of the '48 refugees,” Smotrich wrote in a Facebook post, referring to the Nakba in 1948, when Zionist militias forcibly expelled more than 700,000 Palestinians from historic Palestine and prohibited them and their descendants from ever returning.

“Who instead of being rehabilitated … like hundreds of millions of refugees around the world, were held hostages in Gaza in poverty.”

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He added that the state of Israel is “irreconcilable” with the existence of an independent Gaza, which relies “on the hatred of Israel and aspirations for its destruction”.

In his 2017 "decisive plan", Smotrich outlined his solution to the "demographic problem" posed by the Palestinians. He proposed an unrestrained settlement expansion and a full annexation of the West Bank, where Palestinians would be required to accept life without political rights under Jewish rule or emigrate to another country.

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Palestinians who are unwilling to accept these two options are characterised as "terrorists" and "will be dealt with by the security forces with a strong hand".

His comments follow a letter he wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, in which he called for the creation of “sterile security zones” around settlements in the West Bank to “prevent Arabs from entering them”.

This comes shortly after an Israeli intelligence ministry document was leaked to the Israeli news site Calcalist that detailed 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.

Since the Israeli onslaught on Gaza started on 7 October, more than 11,240 Palestinians have been killed, including 4,630 children and 3,130 women, the government media office in Gaza said on Monday.

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