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Voluntary emigration from Gaza dropped due to US opposition

Jerusalem will not allow Gazans back into Israel for work after the massacre of Oct. 7, MK Danny Danon told JNS.

MKs Danny Danon (center, wearing red tie) and Ram Ben Barak (behind Danon's left shoulder) meet with foreign diplomats at the Knesset to discuss post-war Gaza, Jan. 10, 2024. Credit: The Knesset Spokespersons Office.
MKs Danny Danon (center, wearing red tie) and Ram Ben Barak (behind Danon's left shoulder) meet with foreign diplomats at the Knesset to discuss post-war Gaza, Jan. 10, 2024. Credit: The Knesset Spokespersons Office.

A proposal to encourage the voluntary emigration of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip as part of a post-war plan is no longer being considered due to opposition from the Biden administration, a leading Israeli lawmaker said Wednesday.

The idea, which former Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. MK Danny Danon of the ruling Likud Party and MK Ram Ben Barak of the opposition Yesh Atid Party raised anew in a meeting with dozens of foreign diplomats at the Knesset on Wednesday, is not on the government agenda due to American pressure, Danon told JNS.

He spoke a day after visiting Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. unequivocally rejects any proposals advocating for the resettlement of Palestinians outside of Gaza, and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed that this is not the policy of the Israeli government.

‘Day after’ diplomatic discussion

The two lawmakers discussed with the group of foreign diplomats a five-point plan that includes the demilitarization of Gaza, the establishment of an Israeli security zone in the Strip along the border fence, Israeli control of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, voluntary emigration of Palestinians and the reconstruction of Gaza.

Danon said after the meeting that the Cabinet has adopted four of the five points, just not the proposal for voluntary emigration. 

He noted the discussion on that point was “not an easy one,” adding that it was nevertheless an important idea since Israel will not allow Gazans back into Israel for work after the massacre of Oct. 7.

Danon referred to an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal that he and Ben Barak penned on the issue in November urging “a handful” of countries to take in as few as 10,000 Palestinians each to alleviate the crisis.

Israel held discussions with several countries on the proposal before the idea was nixed.

Gaza belongs to the Palestinians

“Gaza belongs to the people in Gaza and they need to build an authority that will rule them that is not a terror organization,” Ben Barak, a former deputy director of the Mossad, told the foreign diplomats from dozens of countries. “It could be PLO but a PLO that must be changed.

“It is crucial that the United States, Israel, Arab countries and the Western world collaborate in curbing Iran’s influence in the region, countering terrorism and facilitating the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip,” he said.

More questions than answers

Wednesday’s event at the Knesset, titled “Gaza: The Day After the War,” which was only partially open to the media, was heavily attended by members of the diplomatic corps and represented a united bipartisan Israeli stance.

The diplomats, who all support a two-state solution, offered varying degrees of support for Israel in their remarks with most couching their backing with concern over the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the need for a peaceful solution to the conflict.

With the war in its fourth month, many agreed that there were more questions than answers regarding the future of Gaza. That section of the discussion was closed to the media.

“The day after can be a new era,” Italian Ambassador Sergio Barbanti offered before expressing the de rigueur platitudes about Israelis and Palestinians living together in a region with peace and prosperity expressed by most of the diplomats, and denouncing the global wave of antisemitism.

“With the wave of antisemitism around the world, it is important that we all make sure that Jews are safe wherever they are,” he said.

Romanian Ambassador to Israel Radu Ioanid (right) meets with Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, Aug. 2, 2023. Source: X/Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt.

Romanian Ambassador Radu Ioanid, a historian who worked at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington for decades, stood out among his peers in offering full solidarity with Israel.

“Let us not forget that on October 7 Israel was the victim,” Ioanid said. “This is something that many countries have begun to overlook.”

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