Updated Jan 3, 2024 - World

U.S. condemns Israeli ultranationalist ministers' call to push Palestinians out of Gaza

Itamar Ben-Gvir (left) and Bezalel Smotrich talk in the Knesset on Nov. 15, 2022. Photo: Kobi Wolf/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Biden administration on Tuesday issued a strong condemnation of statements made by two senior Israeli ministers who called for pushing Palestinian civilians out of the Gaza Strip. "This rhetoric is inflammatory and irresponsible," State Department spokesperson Mathew Miller said.

Why it matters: It's the strongest public condemnation the Biden administration has voiced against Israeli government officials since Hamas' Oct. 7 attack.

  • The statement signals the growing concerns in the Biden administration that Netanyahu isn't reigning in the radical-right wing ministers in his coalition.

Driving the news: Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, an ultranationalist, said in recent days that Israel should take steps to encourage immigration of the majority of the more than 2 million Palestinians in Gaza to Europe.

  • Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir, also an ultranationalist, also expressed support for such a move, saying it would allow Israel to rebuild Jewish settlements in Gaza.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hasn't publicly condemned or rejected these statements. But a senior Israeli official told reporters on Wednesday that Israel isn't discussing or negotiating with any country the immigration of Palestinians from Gaza.
  • "There are those who think it might be possible. These are baseless illusions," the official said. "No country will agree to accept Palestinians from Gaza. Not 1 million and not 5,000. I don't know where this came from but we can put it to rest."

What they're saying: "The United States rejects recent statements from Israeli Ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir advocating for the resettlement of Palestinians outside of Gaza," Miller said.

  • Miller added that the Biden administration has been told repeatedly and consistently by Israeli officials, including Netanyahu, that such statements do not reflect the policy of the Israeli government. "They should stop immediately," he stressed.
  • Miller said the U.S. sees Gaza as Palestinian land. "It will remain Palestinian land, with Hamas no longer in control of its future and with no terror groups able to threaten Israel," he said. "That is the future we seek, in the interests of Israelis and Palestinians, the surrounding region, and the world."

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Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details from the senior Israeli official.

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