update deskIsrael at War

After US censure, Smotrich repeats call to resettle Gazans

Israel is holding secret talks with Congo to accept Palestinian migrants.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich holds a press conference in Jerusalem, Aug. 9, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich holds a press conference in Jerusalem, Aug. 9, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.

Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich on Wednesday reiterated his support for the voluntary resettlement of Gazans, a day after being condemned by the U.S. for taking this stance.

“More than 70% of the Israeli public today supports a humanitarian solution of encouraging the voluntary immigration of Gaza Arabs and their absorption in other countries, understanding that a small country like ours cannot afford a reality where four minutes away from our communities there is a hotbed of hatred and terrorism where two million people who wake up every morning with aspiration for the destruction of the State of Israel and with a desire to slaughter and rape and murder Jews wherever they are,” Smotrich, who is also a minister in the Defense Ministry with responsibility for civilian issues in Judea and Samaria, tweeted.

“Israeli society will not agree to the continuation of this reality in Gaza; we must rethink and share ideas with our friends in the international community that will bring peace, security and prosperity to all the peoples of the region and allow the residents of the south to return to their homes in safety and peace,” the head of the Religious Zionism Party continued.

Matthew Miller, the U.S. State Department spokesman, rejected calls on Tuesday from Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir for Palestinians to be permanently resettled outside of Gaza and for Israel to re-establish Jewish communities within the Strip.

“This rhetoric is inflammatory and irresponsible,” Miller stated. “We have been told repeatedly and consistently by the government of Israel, including by the prime minister, that such statements do not reflect the policy of the Israeli government. They should stop immediately.”

The war against Hamas is an “opportunity to concentrate on encouraging the migration of the residents of Gaza,” said Ben-Gvir on Tuesday, adding that Israel “cannot withdraw from any territory we are in the Gaza Strip. Not only do I not rule out Jewish settlement there, I believe it is also an important thing.”

The Times of Israel reported on Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition has been in secret talks with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (ex-Zaire) in central Africa and with other unnamed countries about accepting Gazan refugees.

“Congo will be willing to take in migrants, and we’re in talks with others,” a senior source in the Security Cabinet told Zman Israel, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew sister site.

The Times of Israel reported that Netanyahu told a Likud faction meeting on Monday that he is working on finding countries willing to accept the Gazans.

“Our problem is [finding] countries that are willing to absorb Gazans, and we are working on it,” he said.

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