Several members of Israel’s governing coalition attended a conference calling for the resettlement of Gaza at which Jewish Power leader Itamar Ben-Gvir called for the “voluntary resettlement” of Palestinians.
In a speech delivered on Sunday to thousands of attendees, including 15 Knesset members, the far-right figurehead and minister of national security insisted that “Gush Katif” must be rebuilt.
The bloc of 17 Israeli settlements, created following the Six-Day War, was forcibly evacuated by the IDF as part of a controversial disengagement plan in 2005.
Ben-Gvir said the plan for Israelis would be to “go home to Gush Katif and northern Samaria.”
"We must fulfill what our Torah says, ‘You will inherit the inhabitants of the land so that they do not become thorns in your side,’ we must encourage them to leave.
Addressing Prime Minister Netanyahu, he said: “It would be a shame to wait another 15 years to go back to Gush Katif. This is the time to return to home, to build settlements, for the death penalty for terrorists, and the time for victory.”
Heritage Minister Amihai Eliyahu and Tourism Minister Haim Katz, both members of Likud, were also present at the “Settlement Brings Security” conference.
Eliyahu has previously demanded that Israel “fully occupy” the Gaza Strip to prevent a repeat of October 7.
“Anyone who is today selling the idea that [the Palestinians] can go back to running things doesn’t remember what happened on [October 7],” he said.
Daniella Weiss, a radical settler leader who attended the conference, told NBC: "After October 7th, history changed… It’s the end of the presence of Arabs in Gaza. It’s the end.
"Instead of them, there will be many, many Jews that will return to the settlements, that will build new settlements.”
During the speeches, several attendees held up a banner that read: “Only transfer will bring peace.”
Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s finance minister, were meanwhile filmed entering the crowd to link arms with attendees and dance.
Israel is at war, nearly 1500 Israelis have been killed, and far-right extremists throw a party about resettling the Gaza Strip.— Eli Kowaz - איליי קואז (@elikowaz) January 28, 2024
Among the attendees: over two dozen coalition MKs, including Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich. pic.twitter.com/dyGEsAkO5U
The event took place two days after the International Court of Justice demanded that Israel act to prevent genocide in Gaza and punish officials inciting genocide.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid said the “terrible irresponsibility” of the conference organisers would endanger IDF soldiers and Israel’s international reputation.
“The most harmful government in the country's history reaches a new low tonight,” he wrote on X/Twitter.
“The settlement conference in Gaza of the ‘Otzma Yehudit’ [Jewish Power] party, with many ministers from the Likud party, is a disgrace to Netanyahu and to a party that was once at the center of the national camp and is now trailing helplessly behind the extremists… Netanyahu is incompetent, this government is incompetent.”
Writing on social media, Palestine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also condemned the conference, writing: “The colonial meeting in Jerusalem poses a blatant challenge to the International Court of Justice decision, accompanied by public incitement to forcibly displace Palestinians.”
Polling published last month, however, reveals that most Israelis oppose any attempt to reestablish settlements in Gaza.
According to a Hebrew University poll, 56 per cent oppose annexation and resettlement, with 33 per cent in favour.