Thousands of “Greater Israel” activists last night turned a political rally to occupy Gaza into an event that began to resemble a rave, complete with the crowd breaking into dance. The Times of Israel (TOI) reported on the “carnival-like atmosphere at the Jerusalem International Convention Center…. In front of an impassioned audience of thousands of right-wing activists, 11 government ministers and 15 coalition lawmakers pledged Sunday night to rebuild Jewish Israeli settlements in the heart of the Gaza Strip, with some also encouraging the emigration of the Palestinian population after the war with Hamas is over.”
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, together with six Knesset members from their two parties, signed the “Covenant of Victory and Renewal of Settlement,” pledging the signers to “grow Jewish settlements” in the Gaza Strip. Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, also called for building occupation settlements in Gaza and “encouraging voluntary emigration,” but added that Gaza civilians could now be coerced into saying they want to leave the territory. One banner read: “Only a Transfer Will Bring Peace,” referring to the “transfer” of Palestinians from Gaza.
Netanyahu had said on Jan. 27, Saturday night that he opposes resettling Gaza and that it wasn’t an accepted government policy—a statement that should be taken with a grain of salt, as the illegal seizure of land for decades in the West Bank had frequently taken place with the government responding with no more than a wink and a nod. Netanyahu said that lawmakers and ministers were allowed to speak their minds, but that there had so far not been any decision to resettle Gaza, by the proper authority, the full Israeli security cabinet.
TOI claimed that the “event’s express purpose was to serve as a rallying cry to the general public and the government to take advantage of the current war, in which the Israel Defense Forces has asserted control over large parts of the Gaza Strip, and begin to build Jewish settlements in the coastal enclave once again.” Extracts from four participants follow:
Ben-Gvir told the assembled that Israel’s 2005 Disengagement from Gaza, pulling back the illegal settlements, was the sin that led to the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas: “Part of correcting the mistake, of recognizing the sin ... is to return home…. [We] are returning home, to Gush Katif and northern Samaria…. We need to return home, to rule the territory, and yes, also to offer a moral and logical solution to the humanitarian problem: encourage emigration and [pass a] death penalty law” for terror convicts.
Smotrich said that Israel could either “once again run away from terrorism” or “we settle the land, control it, fight terrorism and bring security to the entire State of Israel. Without settlement, there is no security. And without security on Israel’s borders, there is no security in any part of Israel.” He concluded: “God willing, together we will be victorious; God willing, together we will settle and be victorious.”
Karhi said: “We have an obligation to act, for our sakes and even for the sake of those purported uninvolved civilians, to [bring about] voluntary emigration—even if this war, which was imposed on us, turns this voluntary migration into a situation of ‘Coerce him until he says, “I want to do so.”’” Karhi was quoting a phrase in Jewish law whereby someone can be coerced into performing certain religious obligations by physical or other forms of pressure.
The West Bank settlers’ operation, Nachala, was key in organizing the Jan. 27 event. It has already established 400 settler families, divided into six groups, that supposedly are willing to establish six new settlements in Gaza—assuming the government at least looks the other way. They have mapped out the sites,
including sites deep inside Gaza’s two main cities, Khan Younis and Gaza City. The chairwoman and veteran settler activist, Daniella Weiss, explained the justice of driving out the Palestinians: “Millions of war refugees go from country to country around the world.” Why “only the monsters who grew in Gaza and turned this beautiful part of the land into a ghost land—only they should be connected to it?” (Evidently, they bombed their own land into smithereens.) “They, specifically, can’t move from a land they turned into hell and from where they threaten to destroy Israel?” She concluded: “Only the people of Israel will settle the entire Gaza Strip and will rule the entire Gaza Strip.”