US criticises Israeli ministers who want Palestinians to leave Gaza

Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir have called for the rebuilding of settlements in enclave and encouraged the 'voluntary emigration' of Palestinians

Far-right Israeli politician Itamar Ben-Gvir attends a cabinet meeting at Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Sunday. AP
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The US on Tuesday criticised recent statements by Israeli ministers who advocated the resettlement of Palestinians outside Gaza, calling such rhetoric “inflammatory and irresponsible”.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir on Monday called for the rebuilding of settlements in the Gaza Strip and encouraged the “voluntary emigration” of Palestinians.

"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," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

“We have been told repeatedly and consistently by the government of Israel, including by the Prime Minister [Benjamin Netanyahu], that such statements do not reflect the policy of the Israeli government,” Mr Miller said.

“They should stop immediately.”

According to The Times of Israel, Mr Ben-Gvir and Mr Smotrich presented the migration of Palestinian civilians as a solution to the decades-long conflict and as a prerequisite for creating the stability necessary to allow residents of southern Israel to return to their homes.

The Israel-Gaza war is an “opportunity to concentrate on encouraging the migration of the residents of Gaza”, the Times quoted Mr Ben-Gvir as telling members of his far-right Otzma Yehudit party.

He also called the policy “a correct, just, moral and humane solution” to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

“We have been clear, consistent and unequivocal that Gaza is Palestinian land and will remain Palestinian land, with Hamas no longer in control of its future and with no terror groups able to threaten Israel,” Mr Miller said.

“That is the future we seek, in the interests of Israelis and Palestinians, the surrounding region and the world.”

Mr Ben-Gvir rejected the US criticism in a post on X, formerly Twitter, later on Tuesday, saying that the Israeli government would “do what is best for the State of Israel”.

“We highly value America’s friendship, but respectfully, we aren’t another star on the American flag,” he said.

The comments from the ministers come as the Israeli bombardment of Gaza continues and amid a rise in violence in the West Bank, which has included raids by the military, as well as attacks by extremist settlers.

Updated: January 03, 2024, 11:25 AM