Photo Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO
UK former Prime Minister Tony Blair with a friend in Jerusalem, July 11, 2016.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in Israel on Sunday for secret talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister Benny Gantz on his possible appointment as the voluntary emigration czar for the Gaza Strip.

Finance Minister and Religious Zionism Chairman Bezalel Smotrich on Sunday welcomed the potential appointment and told Army Radio the discourse on the day after the war would take a different turn if the population in Gaza consisted of 100,000 or 200,000 Arabs instead of 2 million.


Veteran diplomat and historian of Islam in Southeast Asia Moshe Yeger wrote in an op-ed in Srugim last Friday that “The Gaza Strip must be emptied of its Arab population, at least most of them. It may not be an easy or short process, but it will be better, and cheaper than any other proposal that ends up taking us back to the previous situation that inflicted on us the October 7 disaster.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Blair issued a statement saying “The reports according to which Mr. Blair is involved in the ‘voluntary evacuation’ of Palestinians from Gaza are simply not true. There has been no discussion about this with Blair and if the issue comes up, he will not even consider such a thing.”

But even if the popular statesman agrees to take on one of the most challenging assignments known to mankind in 2024, he won’t be able to. Documents from 2003, released last week by the UK National Archives, reveal that Blair became increasingly frustrated with the inability to dissuade individuals from immigrating to the UK, and advocated for more “radical” proposals.

These included sending asylum seekers to concentration camps on the Scottish island of Mull, and later transferring them to “safe havens” in Turkey, South Africa, and Kenya

In a paper titled “Asylum: the nuclear option,” Blair’s advisers even raised the question of whether the UK needed an asylum system at all, given that refugees would have already traversed a safe country before reaching Britain.

A report titled “Asylum: The Nuclear Option” that was handed to Blair by his chief of staff Jonathan Powell in January 2003 suggested legislating “incompatibly” with the European Convention on Human Rights, which would allow the UK to send asylum seekers back to their home countries with little or no right of appeal, even if their lives were at risk there.

Needless to say, this is not a good time for Blair to take on a new job dealing with seeking solutions for a population under stress.

Incidentally, in his January 4, 2023 inaugural speech, Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak vowed twice to “stop the boats” packed with illegal asylum seekers crossing the English Channel.

“We will pass new laws to stop small boats, making sure that if you come to this country illegally, you are detained and swiftly removed,” PM Sunak pledged.

In mid-November 2023, MKs Danny Danon (Likud) and Ram Ben-Barak (Yesh Atid) published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal headlined, “The West Should Welcome Gaza Refugees.”

“As the war continues … UN resolutions are doing nothing tangible to help Gaza’s residents. It is imperative that the international community explore potential solutions to help civilians caught in the crisis,” Danon and Ben-Barak argued.

Last week, MK Danon told Reshet Bet Radio that countries in South America and Africa have offered Israel to take in refugees from the Gaza Strip for a fee.

And on December 21, 2023, Canada’s Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marc Miller announced a temporary immigration program for Gaza Strip residents with Canadian relatives.

“This expands the definition and allows us a greater set of people that may not be permanent residents or Canadians, but for all intents and purposes represent the family,” Minister Miller said at a news conference in Ottawa, adding, “Many are concerned about the safety of loved ones currently residing in Gaza. It is unlivable.”

Finally, on December 24, 2023, a Direct Polls survey asked 1,487 Israeli adults who were a representative sample of the general population in Israel, “To what degree do you support encouraging the voluntary emigration of Gaza Strip residents?”

The response was:

68% support it strongly
15% are quite supportive
8% don’t really support it
9% don’t support it at all

According to official Israeli data, between 1967 and 1989, approximately 300,000 Arabs in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip emigrated, averaging around 13,000 annually. From 1990 to the end of 1994, Israeli sources note a net return of 30,000 PA Arabs after accounting for those who left during that period, coinciding with the PLO’s takeover. Between 1995 and 2003, there was a net loss of 88,000, with an annual average of 11,000 emigrants.

A 2010 survey by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) revealed that 33,000 people left Judea, Samaria, and Gaza from 2005 to 2009, averaging 7,000 annually. During the same period, over 30,000 immigrants returned. Current estimates suggest an annual average emigration of over 10,000 in the past decade. Additionally, the semi-permanent opening of the Rafah Crossing with Egypt in 2018 reportedly led to about 24,000 emigrants from the Gaza Strip in that year alone, though unconfirmed Israeli reports suggest the number is 35,000.


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