Chaim Goldberg/FLASH90
Gila Gamliel

While the U.S. has shot down voluntary resettlement as an option, many Israeli officials are for it.

By Troy O. Fritzhand, The Algemeiner

Considerations of what will happen in Gaza should Israel achieve its war aim of fully incapacitating the ruling Hamas terror group have taken center stage in Israel’s public discourse, as well as in meeting rooms of Israeli decision-makers in government.

One idea that has recently gained more traction is the voluntary resettlement of Palestinians from Gaza. The Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, is considering absorbing thousands of Gaza refugees seeking a home outside the war-torn Palestinian enclave, according to Zman Israel, the Times of Israel‘s Hebrew sister site.

“Congo will be ready to receive immigrants, and we are in negotiations with other countries,” the report said, quoting a senior government official.

Meanwhile, Israeli Minister of Intelligence Gila Gamliel outlined her plan for the voluntary resettlement of Gaza Strip residents at a meeting of Israel’s parliament, known as the Knesset, on Tuesday. She presented a map showing the “new” Gaza after the war, which Hamas launched with its Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel.

“Hamas’ rule will collapse. There will be no municipal government. The civilian population will be completely dependent on humanitarian aid,” Gamliel said. “There will be no employment, and 60 percent of Gaza’s agricultural land will become security buffer zones.”

Gamliel argued that international support and an aid package for refugees would be essential, adding, “The mobilization of the international community is required to create a pool of countries that will take in refugees while receiving an aid package for them.”

Some Israeli ministers have also reportedly debated asking Saudi Arabia to accept hundreds of thousands of Palestinians for work, many of whom could join the country’s booming construction workforce.

The plan of Gazans voluntarily emigrating elsewhere was introduced in the earliest days of the war but was quickly shot down by the US and European countries. However, it has picked up steam in recent days.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich voiced support for such a plan earlier this week when he told Israel’s Channel 12: “We need to encourage immigration from there [Gaza]. If there were 100,000-200,000 Arabs in the Strip and not two million, the whole conversation about the day after would be completely different.”

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir also promoted the idea at his party’s faction meeting, and called it the most “humane solution.”

In response, US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller blasted the idea. “The United States rejects recent statements from Israeli Ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir advocating for the resettlement of Palestinians outside of Gaza,” he said. “This rhetoric is inflammatory and irresponsible. We have been told repeatedly and consistently by the government of Israel, including by the prime minister, that such statements do not reflect the policy of the Israeli government. They should stop immediately.”

French President Emmanuel Macron also voiced his opposition, telling War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz that the remarks are “unacceptable and against a two-state solution.”

Smotrich shot back on Wednesday morning, tweeting, “More than 70 percent of the Israeli public today supports a humanitarian solution of encouraging the voluntary immigration of Gazan Arabs and their absorption in other countries, understanding that a small country like ours cannot afford a reality where four minutes away from our settlements there is a hotbed of hatred and terrorism.”

Ben-Gvir also pushed back, adding, “I really appreciate the United States of America, but with all due respect we are not another star on the American flag. The United States is our best friend, but first of all we will do what is best for the State of Israel: the migration of hundreds of thousands from Gaza will allow the residents of the enclave to return home and live in security and protect the IDF soldiers.”

The Israeli cabinet was set to meet on Wednesday to discuss plans for a post-war Gaza, but it was postponed until Thursday evening due to pressing security concerns surrounding potential escalations in fighting after the assassination of Hamas leader Salah al-Aruri in Lebanon on Tuesday.