The United States on Tuesday denounced controversial comments by two Israeli ministers who said Palestinians should be encouraged to emigrate from Gaza and for Jewish settlers to return to the besieged territory.
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Washington “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,” added Miller, who reiterated the “clear, consistent, and unequivocal” US position 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.”
The United States rejects the inflammatory and irresponsible statements from Israeli Ministers Smotrich and Ben Gvir. There should be no mass displacement of Palestinians from Gaza.
— Matthew Miller (@StateDeptSpox) January 2, 2024
Ben Gvir, Israel’s firebrand national security minister, had called on Monday for promoting “a solution to encourage the emigration of Gaza’s residents.”
Israel unilaterally withdrew the last of its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005, ending a presence inside Gaza that began in 1967 but maintaining near complete control over the territory’s borders.
The government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not officially suggested it has any plans to evict Gazans or to send Jewish settlers back to the territory since the current war broke out on October 7.
But Ben Gvir argued that the departure of Palestinians and re-establishment of Israeli settlements “is a correct, just, moral and humane solution.”
“This is an opportunity to develop a project to encourage Gaza’s residents to emigrate to countries around the world,” he told a meeting of his ultranationalist Otzma Yehudit, or “Jewish Power,” party.
His comments came the day after Israel’s far-right Finance Minister Smotrich also called for the return of settlers to Gaza, equally saying Israel should “encourage” the territory’s approximately 2.4 million Palestinians to leave.
The bloodiest ever Gaza war was triggered by Hamas’s October 7 attacks on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of around 1,140 people, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.
After the worst attack in its history, Israel began a relentless bombardment and ground offensive that has killed at least 22,185 people, mostly women and children, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.
With heavy combat raging on, 85 percent of people in the besieged Gaza Strip have been internally displaced, according to the United Nations.
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