Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The Israeli newspaper Arab 48 reports that on Sunday evening 12 Israeli cabinet members and 15 members of Parliament (the Knesset) attended a conference in Jerusalem on the recolonization of the Gaza Strip by Israeli squatter-settlers. They were greeted by shouts of “Expel the Palestinians and settle the land in its length and breadth.”
The attendees and speakers clearly were not impressed by the International Court of Justice’s preliminary injunction against Israel last Friday demanding that it cease genocidal acts and policies.
The conference was organized by squatter organizations to promote settlements on Palestinian land in Gaza after the end of the current war, which has killed over 26,000 people and damaged or destroyed most of Gaza’s buildings and dwellings.
The conference was inaugurated by the chief of the Shomron regional council of settlements, Yossi Dagan. He said, “The Oslo Accords are dead. We are returning to Gush Katif.”
In the period 1967-2005 Israeli squatters had established 17 settlements in south Gaza near Khan Younis and Rafah, called Gush Katif. The Israeli army brought the squatters out to Israel in 2005 because it could not protect them there.
Dagan continued, “The thousands who came here this evening, among them 12 cabinet ministers in the government (from the Likud and Religious Zionist Parties), and more than 15 members of the Knesset, came to commemorate an important event in the process of a comprehensive reform of the Israeli state.”
“We struggled together,” he said, “for 16 years for the sake of rectifying the shame of the severing of the connection, of the displacement, and of the deportation of the settlements.” He was referring to the 2005 withdrawal under right wing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Sharon at that time also withdrew four settlements from the north of the Palestinian West Bank.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has rejected the notion of sending Israeli squatters back into Gaza after the war.
Attendees waved a placard with the slogan, “Only transfer will bring peace.” “Transfer” means the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.
The cabinet ministers and members of Parliament signed a statement with the title, “Covenant to help and renew the settlements in the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria” as a response to the Hamas attack of October 7, considering that this step will bring security to the occupying power.
The plan broached at the conference involves setting up settlement nucleii in the Gaza Strip called “yeshi” — a Hebrew acronym for “The United Tribes of Israel.” One nucleus would be set up on the outskirts of Beit Hanoun in the north of the Gaza Strip, in addition to another, “Maoz,” on the southern shore. A third would be established at Khan Younis. At Rafah in the south there would be a squatter settlement for Ultra-Orthodox Jews (Haredim).
The organizers distributed orange ribbons to the attendees as a remembrance of the settlements of Gush Katif.
Then the Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, took the stage. He began his career in the Kahanaist terror group Kach. The attendees, on seeing him, began shouting “transfer, transfer.” He replied, “They are right. They [the Palestinians] must be encouraged to leave voluntarily.” At that point some members of the security forces began pulling down posters calling for the expulsion of the Palestinians.
(Ben-Gvir’s use of the term “voluntary” for the expulsion of the Palestinians was of course dishonest, and was intended to protect himself from the charge of racist incitement or even promotion of genocide, given that the International Court of Justice had just asked the Israeli attorney general to move against political figures advocating genocidal policies.)
Ben-Gvir said, “Withdrawal brings war. We need a return to our home, to control the land, to push toward a solution for encouraging emigration, and to enact of a law punishing terrorism with the death penalty.”
Others who participated in the conference included the Minister of Finance, Bezalel Smotrich, Minister of Communications Shlomo Karhi, Minister of Construction and Housing Yitzchak Goldknopf, the Minister of Tourism, Haim Katz, and the former Minister of Social Equality, Amichai Chikli, who had recently tendered his resignation. Also attending was the Jewish Power Minister for Negev and Galilee, Yitzhak Wasserlauf, along with several other cabinent ministers. They hailed from the far right, secular Likud Party as well as from Religious Zionism and some other small parties.
Bezalel Smotrich said, “The Israeli people stands at an important and fateful crossroads. We have to decide, will we run away from terrorism once more and allow a node of killing to grow once more behind a fence? Or will we learn the lesson by settling across the length and breadth of our country, dominating it, and combating terrorism, and, with the help of God, bringing security to the entire land of Israel?”
He recalled being beaten up in the eighth grade for opposing the “stupid and scandalous” Oslo Peace Accords of 1993 and paying the cost in his personal freedom for protesting the dismantlement of Gush Katif in 2005.
Tourism Minister Katz said that he was the son of Holocaust survivors who chose to come to Israel and build the land rather than going to Canada. He said he was part of a “rebel group” resisting the dismantlement of the Gaza settlements in 2005. He said Israelis now, 18 years later, had an opportunity to undo that mistake.
Goldknopf, the minister of Construction and Housing, blamed the withdrawal from Gaza and the end of the settlements for bloodshed against the Israelis.
These Great Israel expansionists, who would have been shunned in Israeli politics only a few years ago, are now prominent members of the government. Their entire discourse ignores what the Israelis have done to the people of Gaza since 1967. Gaza was kept under an illegal economic siege, prevented from farming much of its land, prevented from fishing, with ten percent of the children stunted from malnutrition, and a 54% unemployment rate. 70% of the population were families expelled from southern Israel by Zionist gangs, who then moved into their houses and farmed their lands. 40% were still living in refugee camps. They were illegally prevented from ever returning home.
The idea that these policies toward the Palestinians plus flooding in to steal more of their land and put Israeli squatter settlements on it — the idea that all this would increase peace and security for Israelis is truly insane.