The far-right Israeli Finance Minister said that the Israelis who replace the Palestinians “will make the desert flourish.”
Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich called on the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip to leave the besieged enclave, to make way for Israelis who can “make the desert flourish.”
Smotrich, who was left out of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's war cabinet and discussions of arrangements for the next day in Gaza, made the comments while speaking to Israeli Army Radio on Sunday.
He said: “What must be done in the Gaza Strip is to encourage immigration.”
He said: “If there were 100,000 or 200,000 Arabs in Gaza and not two million Arabs, the whole discussion the next day would be completely different.”
He added that if the population of 2.3 million were no longer “raised with the ambition to destroy the State of Israel,” Gaza would be viewed differently in Israel.
“Most of Israeli society will say: Why not? It’s a beautiful place, let’s make the desert flourish, and this comes at no one’s expense.”
In response, Hamas said that Smotrich’s call to displace two million Palestinians and keep about 200,000 in Gaza is a “war crime accompanied by criminal aggression.”
Hamas added, in a statement, that the international community and the United Nations must take action to stop Israel’s crimes and hold it accountable for what it did to the Palestinian people.
Sarah Khairat, an Al Jazeera correspondent from Tel Aviv, said Smotrich's comments “are linked to a narrative that many have begun to believe that Israel wants to reoccupy Gaza.”
Khairat said, “Promoting the idea that they want to expel the Palestinians will remind us of scenes from the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine following the 1948 war that accompanied the founding of the state.” From Israel.
Most of the Palestinians who were displaced after the Nakba ended up in neighboring Arab countries, and Arab leaders said that any recent move to displace Palestinians would be unacceptable.
In a speech on Sunday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected any move to force Palestinians to leave their homes.
He said: “We will not allow displacement from either the Gaza Strip or the West Bank.”
Smotrich's far-right agenda
Smotrich, whose far-right Religious Zionist Party is supported by the Israeli settler community, has made similar statements in the past, putting himself at odds with the United States, Israel's most important ally.
But his views contradict the official government position that Palestinians in Gaza will be able to return to their homes after the war.
Smotrich's party, which helped Netanyahu obtain the majority he needed to become prime minister for the sixth time nearly a year ago, has seen its approval ratings decline since the beginning of the conflict.
Opinion polls also indicate that most Israelis do not support the return of Israeli settlements to Gaza after they were removed from it in 2005 when the army withdrew.
Israel withdrew its army and settlers from Gaza in 2005 after a 38-year occupation, and Netanyahu said it did not intend to maintain a permanent presence again, but would retain security control for an indefinite period.
However, there has been little clarity about Israel's long-term intentions, and countries including the United States have said Gaza should be governed by Palestinians.
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