Israeli Cabinet Minister Adds To Calls For ‘Voluntary Emigration’ From Gaza

An Israeli Cabinet minister said this week that the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip will compel Palestinians to leave the territory, despite widespread condemnation of Israeli calls for so-called “voluntary emigration” amid an invasion that Gazan health authorities say has claimed the lives of more than 23,000 Palestinians.

In an interview posted online Monday by Israeli broadcaster Knesset TV, Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi said “we certainly need to encourage emigration” from Gaza.

HuffPost independently translated the conversation, a clip of which gained attention on X, formerly Twitter, Wednesday.

“I said voluntary emigration, and in Judaism, there is an idea known as ‘Compelling him until he says, I want,’” Kahri said shortly before the clip of the interview shared on X begins, referring to a Jewish legal concept that typically applies to divorce or charitable giving.

When the interviewer, Moran Azulay, asked how the Israeli government would accomplish that, Karhi’s reply was blunt.

“The war does what it does,” he said.

Does that mean, Azulay asked, Israel would “continue to pressure them with force, with hunger, and with difficult conditions?”

“We’re pressuring Hamas into a corner right now — not with difficult conditions. We do give humanitarian support to the uninvolved,” Karhi responded. (Many international observers have criticized Israeli rules and restrictions on this aid.)

Pressed again by Azulay, Karhi acknowledged that the conditions in Gaza are hard for civilians and that “they will continue to be hard so long as we have not returned the hostages home and so long as we haven’t exterminated Hamas.”

In Hamas’ cross-border attack on Israel on Oct. 7, Palestinian militants not only killed more than 1,100 people but also abducted more than 200 Israelis as hostages. More than 100 remain captive following a prisoner swap last year, according to Israeli officials.

The comment from Karhi, a high-ranking member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, offers yet another example of prominent Israeli officials speaking openly about pressuring residents to evacuate Gaza. Karhi’s remarks come as Israel prepares to defend itself against an accusation of genocide brought by South Africa in the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

Previously, far-right Cabinet ministers have said Israel needs to “encourage emigration” out of Gaza, describing it as an Israeli security aim.

“If in Gaza there will be 100,000 or 200,000 Arabs and not 2 million, the entire conversation on ‘the day after’ will look different,” Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said last month, referring to Gaza as a “ghetto.”

A few days later, responding to criticism for a similar comment, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said, “The emigration of hundreds of thousands from Gaza will allow residents [of the border area] to return home and live in security and protect [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers.”

Netanyahu himself has reportedly said he was working to facilitate the emigration of Gazans to other countries and that “our problem is [finding] countries that are willing to absorb Gazans, and we are working on it.”

Karhi seemed to acknowledge those discussions in the interview published Monday, saying, “We’ve spoken about it at government meetings … by the way, there are no countries that want to absorb them, even if we pay them a lot of money.” (On Wednesday, Netanyahu said in remarks in English, “Israel has no intention of permanently occupying Gaza or displacing its civilian population.”)

United States officials — including Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken — have condemned such comments, as have others, including the leaders of Egypt and Jordan and the U.N. special rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories.

“Palestinian civilians must be able to return home as soon as conditions allow,” Blinken said Sunday. “They cannot and they must not be pressed to leave Gaza. We reject the statements by some Israeli ministers and lawmakers calling for a resettlement of Palestinians outside of Gaza.”

Azulay played a video clip of Blinken’s comments during her interview with Karhi, just before the communication minister effectively argued in favor of compelling Gazans to leave the Strip.

Although Karhi acknowledged that many Gazans are not involved with Hamas, he suggested that Israel had a strong interest in getting even the innocent civilians in the region to leave.

“Maybe they’re not involved [in terrorism] now, but they’re not lovers of Israel, they educate their kids in [the ways of] terror,” he said, referring to the Gazan population.

“Voluntary emigration is an important thing,” he continued. “There is no violation of human rights here. And the war also must continue.”

Comments are closed.