Photo Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90
Gaza Arabs who were evacuated from their homes take shelter at the European hospital in Khan Younis, January 1, 2024.

The debate continues in Israel about voluntary migration as the only effective solution for the festering humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, and even as a whopping majority of Israelis tell pollsters that they support the move (68% in a December 24 Direct Polls survey supported it strongly, and 15% were quite supportive), the political echelon is far from reflecting the public’s mood on the subject.

On December 25, 2023, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed at the Likud Knesset faction meeting that he was working on the voluntary immigration of Gaza residents to other countries. “Our problem is finding countries that are ready to absorb them, and we are working on it,” Netanyahu said.


The two leaders of the religious right, Ministers Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, have been presenting a definitive program for the day after the war, whenever that day arrives, that includes three inseparable principles: continued IDF control over Gaza; voluntary migration of upwards of 1.5 million out of the 2 million Gaza residents; and the rebuilding of the 17 Gush Katif Jewish settlements in the northern and southern Gaza Strip as the permanent foundation for a peaceful Gaza.

Ben Gvir on Monday went as far as equating the resolution of the threat from Gaza with the 1948 War of Independence:

“We are in an existential war, our second war of independence. Our enemies who surround us at all the borders are looking at us and any talk about reducing the intensity of the fighting or moving to a different phase is liable to harm us and perpetuate the dangerous conceptzia.
“The intensity must not be reduced, the pressure on Hamas until it is destroyed must be increased. We must promote a solution to encourage the migration of Gaza residents. It is a correct, just, moral, and humane solution. I call on the Prime Minister and the new Foreign Minister … this is the opportunity to coordinate a migration project now, a project to encourage the immigration of residents from Gaza to the countries of the world.
“Make no mistake about it, we have partners around the world that can help, there are statesmen around the world to whom we can promote this idea. Encouraging the migration of the residents of Gaza will allow us to bring the residents of the Gaza envelope and the residents of Gush Katif back home.”

Smotrich issued his version on Sunday, after congratulating Netanyahu for blocking a debate on the day after the war at the war cabinet, which by definition is in charge of the days during the war:

“Whoever thought that the solution in Gaza would be similar to the solutions we tried in the past is wrong. You have to think outside the box, and the right solution is to encourage the voluntary migration of the residents of Gaza to countries that will agree to accept these refugees, as millions of refugees from Syria and other war zones have been accepted, this should be the case for the residents of Gaza. The government should act decisively to promote this solution. We will have to mobilize the international community for this. Gaza will not return to being a hotbed of two million people who are groomed for terrorism. Gaza will not return to that place, period.
“Along with encouraging immigration, Israel will permanently control the territory of the Gaza Strip, to ensure security through a permanent presence on the ground of IDF forces, and in the establishment of a Jewish settlement enterprise which will ultimately be an anchor for security, as is the case today in Judea and Samaria. That’s how it was before the deportation and the horrible disengagement, and that’s how it will be in Gaza in the future as well. I will present my plans to the cabinet, and I hope that after October 7, people will be open to a different and new way of thinking for the benefit of the State of Israel.”
Gazans near the ruins of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on January 1, 2024. / Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90

Even members of Israel’s left, such as MK Ram Ben Barak (Yesh Atid) are promoting voluntary emigration from Gaza.


Despite Netanyahu’s recent support for voluntary migration, the official Israeli government’s line on the subject rejects the idea. After Israel’s Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel’s November 19, 2023, op-ed pointed out that close to 350,000 youths from Gaza have migrated following the Hamas takeover in 2007, and suggested “the voluntary resettlement of Palestinians in Gaza, for humanitarian reasons, outside of the Strip,” the Israeli embassy in Washington told reporters that Gamliel did not represent the government official position.

On December 10, 2023, Elon Levy, the Prime Minister’s spokesman for foreign media, denied that Israel was planning to move the civilian population from the Gaza Strip, and said that any claim that Israel would act in this way was “false and scandalous.”

On Monday, Hadash-Ta’al MK Ahmad Tibi told a meeting of his Knesset faction that “Smotrich actually spoke about deporting Palestinians, he called it thinning out the population. Ben Gvir today repeated the idea of deportation or voluntary migration. There is a historical basis for these things, it is a war crime.”

Tibi added, “The day will come when these two senior ministers in the Israeli government will stand before an international court for war crimes.”

That’s rich, coming from the man who served as Yasser Arafat’s special advisor on Israeli issues when his boss carried out suicide bombings inside Israel that resulted in the death of hundreds of innocents and the wounding and maiming of thousands.


The idea of providing new home countries for more than 1.5 million Gazans will not be popular in Europe, where millions of Iraqi and Syrian refugees have driven the rise of anti-immigration, right-wing parties that are already partners in several coalition governments. Two of Israel’s most supportive allies in Europe, Poland and Hungary, have strict anti-immigration laws. There may be countries in Africa and South America willing to absorb some Gazan refugees at a price, but whether the Gazans would agree to resettle in third-world countries remains to be seen. Meanwhile, plenty of Israelis would be happy to see then move to Turkey, Qatar or Dagestan.

It stands to reason that rather than engage in futile efforts to persuade the countries of the world to open their gates to the most militant Islamist population on the planet, Israel should invest efforts in making life in Gaza unbearable. The idea of tempting the Gaza Arabs onto large cruise ships that would take them to nicer places may be a romantic delusion, but the flight of thousands of starved individuals from a disease-ridden and ever-shrinking livable space would eventually bring down the Egyptian government’s barred gates.

Bon Voyage.

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