JERUSALEM — An Israeli minister said Sunday the international community should not fund rebuilding of the war-devastated Gaza Strip and instead promote the “voluntary resettlement” of Palestinians from the territory around the globe.
Any suggestion of Palestinian dispersal is highly controversial in the Arab world as the war that led to Israel’s creation 75 years ago gave rise to the exodus or forced displacement of 760,000 Palestinians, an event known as the Nakba, or “catastrophe”.
Gaza’s Hamas-run housing ministry says more than 40 percent of homes have been damaged or destroyed in the weeks of fighting between Gaza-based Hamas militants and Israeli forces.
Israeli Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel said one “option” after the war would be “to promote the voluntary resettlement of Palestinians in Gaza, for humanitarian reasons, outside of the Strip”.
Writing in The Jerusalem Post, she said that “instead of funnelling money to rebuild Gaza or to the failed UNRWA, the international community can assist in the costs of resettlement, helping the people of Gaza build new lives in their new host countries”.
UNRWA is the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees.
“Gaza has long been thought of as a problem without an answer,” Gamliel wrote. “We must try something new, and we call on the international community to help make it a reality.”
“It could be a win-win solution: a win for those civilians of Gaza who seek a better life and a win for Israel after this devastating tragedy.”
Memories of ‘catastrophe’
The Israel-Hamas war is in its seventh week after unprecedented 7 October Hamas attacks on southern Israel prompted retaliatory Israeli bombardments and a ground offensive in Gaza.
Hamas gunmen killed around 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and captured around 240 more as hostages, according to Israel, when they surged over the militarised Gaza border.
Israel’s retaliatory military campaign in the Palestinian territory has killed 13,000 people, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas government.
The Gaza Strip is mostly populated by Palestinian refugees and their descendants. UNRWA says more than 1.6 million have been displaced by the current fighting.
This mass movement has evoked memories of the Nakba, and some Israeli politicians have proposed pushing Palestinians into neighbouring Egypt, an idea which Cairo rejects.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that “people should be able to stay in Gaza, their home.”
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas warned Blinken that driving out Gaza’s people would amount to a “second Nakba”.
The Oslo Accords of 1993 were meant to lead to an independent Palestinian state but Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations have been stalled since 2014.
US President Joe Biden said, in an opinion piece published Saturday, that Gaza and the West Bank, which Israel occupies, should be “reunited” under a new Palestinian Authority.