The United States and France on Monday criticized a conference held in Jerusalem the previous day calling for the reestablishment of Jewish communities in the Gaza Strip.
Some 5,000 Zionist activists, including nearly one-third of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet, attended the “Settlements Bring Security” event at the capital’s International Convention Center.
The 11 government ministers and 15 coalition lawmakers promised to rebuild the bloc of 17 Israeli communities in the southern Gaza Strip demolished by the Israeli army as part of the 2005 unilateral disengagement. The 8,600 Jewish residents of Gush Katif were forcibly removed from their homes and relocated.
Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir told the gathering that it was “time to return home to Gush Katif,” capitalizing on momentum after the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack and the war in Gaza.
The White House slammed the conference, with a U.S. National Security Council spokesperson stating that Washington is “troubled” by the gathering and reiterating its position against any forced relocation of Gazans outside of the coastal enclave.
“This rhetoric is incendiary and irresponsible, and we take the prime minister at his word when he says that Israel does not intend to reoccupy Gaza,” the statement read.
Netanyahu has described the idea of resettling Jews in the Gaza Strip as “unrealistic” and said on Saturday that the agenda at the conference does not represent his government’s policy.
France’s foreign ministry said that Paris is expecting Israeli authorities to “clearly denounce” the positions taken at the conference, including reestablishing Jewish communities and transferring Gazans out of the territory.
The statement also brought up the recent International Court of Justice ruling stating that the Israeli government must “take all measures within its power to prevent and punish this kind of rhetoric.”
Furthermore, the French statement called for a “unified Palestinian State living in peace and security alongside Israel.”
Activist Daniella Weiss, a former mayor of Kedumim in Samaria who co-organized the Sunday event, told the crowd, “There are two possibilities. Either Gaza will become a flourishing Jewish community, or heaven forbid, it will revert back to becoming a murderous Arab threat to the State of Israel.
“Not Hamas, not the Palestinian Authority, not the United Nations, not UNRWA—only the nation of Israel will settle all of the Gaza Strip and will control all of the Gaza Strip.”