EU and UK slam Israeli ministers’ call for ‘voluntary emigration’ from Gaza Strip


European governments hit out at statements from two far-right Israeli ministers calling for the resettlement of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the Religious Zionism Party, on Wednesday doubled down on a call for “voluntary emigration” from Gaza once the current Israel-Hamas war ends, despite criticism from the United States.

And Itamar Ben-Gvir, national security minister and leader of the ultra-nationalist Otzma Yehudit party, this week issued a call “to encourage the migration of Gaza residents” as a “solution” to the humanitarian crisis.

This “will allow us [Israel] to bring home the residents of the Outaf and the residents of Gush Katif,” he said, referring to former Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip.

Josep Borrell, the EU’s top foreign policy official, condemned the calls to resettle Palestinians living in Gaza as “inflammatory and irresponsible” on Wednesday. “Forced displacements are strictly prohibited as a grave violation of [international humanitarian law] and words matter,” Borrell said on X.

In what appeared to be a coordinated move, the U.K.’s Foreign Office minister Tariq Ahmad wrote on the same platform that “we deplore inflammatory remarks by Israeli Ministers Smotrich and Ben Gvir.”

A spokesperson for the U.K. Foreign Office said: “Gaza is Occupied Palestinian Territory and will be part of a future Palestinian state. The U.K. firmly rejects any suggestion of the resettlement of Palestinians outside of Gaza.”

And the Spanish government also offered its own rebuke Wednesday, saying the administration “rejects recent statements by members of the Government of Israel evoking population movements in Gaza that would be contrary to international law. 

“Spain reiterates the urgent need to respect international law and international humanitarian law and to guarantee the protection of the civilian population.​”

The reactions come after the Biden administration issued its own statement describing the two ministers’ words as “inflammatory and irresponsible.”

Smotrich had argued that voluntary resettlement of the Gaza Strip was needed post-war because Israel could not continue to neighbor a “hotbed of hatred and terrorism, where two million people 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.”

Paula Andrés contributed reporting.


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