Israeli Finance Minister: “Remove 90% of Palestinians from Gaza”

The situation in Gaza

Published 4 January 2024
- By Editorial Staff
Bezalel Smotrich and Palestinian children in the rubble after Israeli bombings.

Bezalel Smotrich, Finance Minister and leader of the Religious Zionist Party, now confirms that he wants to reduce Gaza’s population by about 90% and that Israel must take full control of the territory.

In recent months, a number of neo-conservative and right-wing politicians have expressed support for a large-scale forced transfer of Gaza’s civilian population – ostensibly to solve Israel’s post-war security problems.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich agrees, saying the number of Palestinians in Gaza must be drastically reduced.

In an interview with military radio, the far-right minister said his demand is that Gaza cease to be a “hotbed where two million people grow up on hatred and aspire to destroy the State of Israel”.

Without describing his preferred method of achieving this, Smotrich then suggested that removing about 90% of Gaza’s population would help achieve his goal.

– If there are 100,000 or 200,000 Arabs in Gaza and not two million, the whole discourse about the day after will be different, he argued.

Popular view

The Religious Zionist Party chairman then noted that in order to regain security, Israel must control the Gaza Strip, and “in order to control the territory militarily over time, you must also have civilian presence there” – which has been interpreted to mean that the area will be inhabited by Jews, not Palestinians, in the future.

Last week, Likud MK Danny Danon said in an interview with Kan Bet radio that Israel “has to make it easier for Gazans to leave for other countries”, explaining that this would actually be a humanitarian gesture toward their neighbors.

– I’m talking about voluntary migration by Palestinians who want to leave, he claimed, adding that he has already been approached by “countries in Latin America and Africa that are willing to absorb refugees from the Gaza Strip”.

Could end up in Sweden

Last month, Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel published an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post with a similar proposal, calling on Western countries to accept Gazans in an act of “voluntary resettlement”. Shortly after the op-ed was published, the Israeli Embassy in Washington was forced to clarify that it did not reflect government policy.

In a meeting with Likud Knesset members last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself indicated that he considered the mass displacement of Palestinian civilians from Gaza a positive outcome of the war. In response to Danon’s request that Israel set up a task force to deal with the issue, the prime minister explained that the biggest obstacle for Israel “is countries that are willing to absorb them, and we’re working on this”.

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