(Jerusalem) A few thousand Israelis in favor of the resettlement of settlements in the Gaza Strip, including ministers, gathered Sunday evening in Jerusalem, urging the prime minister to bring the project to fruition.
Members of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and other far-right ministers took part in the rally, as fighting intensified between the Israeli army and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas in Gaza.
“The time has come to return to Gush Katif and encourage voluntary emigration,” said National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, referring to a group of Israeli settlements once established in Gaza.
“Retreat brings war and if we no longer want October 7, we must return home, control the territory and (…) encourage” the “voluntary” departure of Gazans, he added.
Eleven other ministers were present at the meeting, held in a crowded Jerusalem conference center, according to organizers.
Speakers called for the expulsion of Palestinians from Gaza, judging that the reestablishment of settlements was the only way to ensure Israel’s security.
Others sang “the Oslo accords are dead, the people of Israel live”, in reference to the agreements supposed to lead to the peaceful cohabitation of the two peoples, ratified in 1993 by the leader of the PLO Yasser Arafat and the first Israeli Minister Yitzhak Rabin, at the White House, in front of American President Bill Clinton.
The gathering demonstrates that an extremist fringe, long a minority in Israel, is currently gaining ground, at the risk of further deepening the differences between Israel and its American ally.
Israel has occupied the Gaza Strip as well as the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the 1967 war. Some 400,000 Israelis today live in the West Bank in settlements considered illegal by the majority of the international community, alongside three million of Palestinians.
Israel, on the other hand, withdrew its nationals from 21 colonies established in the Gaza Strip in 2005. The territory is home to 2.4 million Palestinians, a large majority of whom have been displaced since the start of fighting in October.
“Not a realistic goal”
The Israeli prime minister has so far never supported the plan to revive settlements in Gaza, declaring that the project was “not a realistic goal.” He has never yet organized a meeting of his government dedicated to the “day after” the war.
This was triggered by the unprecedented attack carried out on October 7 by Hamas, which led to the death of around 1,140 people in Israel, mainly civilians, according to an AFP count based on official figures. Israelis.
In response, Israel vowed to “annihilate” the Islamist movement – which it classifies as terrorist like the United States and the European Union – and launched a vast military operation in Gaza, which left 26,422 dead, the vast majority women, children and adolescents, according to the latest report on Sunday from the Hamas Ministry of Health.
Netanyahu’s government is the most religious and ultranationalist in the country’s history. He has made the expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank a priority since coming to power at the end of 2022.
But its policy is in open contradiction with the approach of the United States, Israel’s staunch ally.
Earlier this year, Mr. Ben Gvir, who is also the leader of the far-right pro-settler Jewish Force party, called for a return of settlers to Gaza after the war, the day after a similar call from another far-right minister, that of Finance, Bezalel Smotrich.
State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller called their comments “irresponsible.”