High Ranking Israeli Politicians Push for Settlement in Gaza Strip

Peace Advocate June 2024

Itamar Ben-Gvir in 2021, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

By Joseph Fandrey


Since the beginning of Israel’s ongoing genocide and following  the October 7th attack by Hamas on Israel, expansionist and pro-settler groups in Israeli politics have mobilized in support of the reestablishment of settlements in the Gaza strip. On January 28th, 11 ministers of Netanyahu’s cabinet and 15 members of his ruling coalition joined a thousand Israeli settler-activists for the “Victory of Israel Conference.” A map of the Gaza strip titled “Settlement Brings Security: Gaza Strip Settlement Map” hung over conference goers. Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s Minister of National Security, a West Bank settler, and a foremost advocate for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, said Israel must “encourage them [Palestinians] to leave” in response to an audience member’s sign that read “Only transfer [of Palestinians] will bring peace.” Ben-Gvir repeated his open call for ethnic cleansing in May of this year saying “If we do indeed see emigration, with hundreds of thousands [of Palestinians] leaving [Gaza], we can bring in more and more and more people [referring to settlers].” Ben-Gvir said that he would “be very happy to live in Gaza” should Israel pursue settlement, adding that “Only the state of Israel… No one else, should rule the Gaza strip.: He doubled down stating his goals for “ A full occupation of Gaza” under “Israeli control.” 

Ben-Gvir’s support for settlement has gone far beyond rhetoric. In October, Ben-Gvir was filmed handing out rifles to settlers illegally occupying the West Bank. This mass distribution of weapons comes as a part of Ben-Gvir’s effort to disperse military weaponry to so-called ‘security teams.’ Ben-Gvir announced the purchase of 10,000 rifles to be distributed to settler militias and has approved 100,000 new gun licenses since October 7. Human Rights Watch identified the settler militias as serial abusers of Palestinians; the militias threatened Palestinians in the West Bank with pamphlets reading “flee to Jordan” or be “exterminate[d].” An April UN report found 700 instances of anti-Palestinian settler violence since October 7. The settler extremists are reported to have “assaulted, tortured, and committed sexual violence against Palestinians, stolen their belongings and livestock, threatened to kill them if they did not leave permanently, and destroyed their homes and schools.” These acts of violence are against ordinary Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank; the militias have no military objective, cruelty is the point. According to Human Rights Watch, Israeli Occupation Forces have either declined to intervene or participated in the abuses of the settlers. The settler militias and their state backers’ goal is to make life for Palestinians so miserable that they flee, effectively expelling them. The crimes of the US-backed Israeli government–ceaseless harassment and violence against Palestinians designed to encourage mass displacement–can only be described as an ethnic cleansing campaign. 

Ben Gvir was not alone at the Victory for Israel Conference. High-ranking members of Israel’s cabinet such as Shlomo Karhi–Netanyahu’s Communications Minister–and Bezalel Smotrich–Netanyahu’s Finance Minister joined him and expressed similar goals. Karhi explicitly laid out his view on forcing the Palestinians to leave Gaza saying that so-called “voluntary migration” may develop “into coercion” as a result of Israel’s Genocide against the Palestinians. Smotrich–also a settler–lamented “I had the privilege of fighting against the expulsion from Gush Katif [a former Settlement in the Gaza Strip that Israel decommissioned in 2005] and northern Samaria [biblical name for the West Bank]. I paid for that with my own liberty.” Here, Smotrich is referring to his 2005 arrest for his alleged plot to blow up a major highway in Israel using 185 gallons of gasoline in opposition to Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip. 

Despite the widespread pro-settlement views of the Israeli cabinet, Israel’s West Bank settlements–and proposed Gaza settlements–are universally recognized as illegal under international law and a violation of the 1967 borders. Amnesty International identified Israel’s settlements as violations of Palestinians rights to life, liberty, security, equal treatment, freedom of speech, and freedom from discrimination. 

These expansionists in Netanyahu’s cabinet, among several others, have raised alarm among the American collaborators in Israel’s genocide and ethnic cleansing. A state department spokesman rejected “statements from Israeli Ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir advocating for the resettlement of Palestinians outside of Gaza” as contrary to “the policy of the Israeli government.” However, open proponents of ethnic cleansing in Gaza represent a significant contingent of the Israeli cabinet. 

In February, the Biden administration recognized the Israeli settlement as “illegitimate.” Earlier this month, Secretary of State Blinken went even further, calling the settlements an obstacle to peace. The US, in response to the recent increase in settler violence, announced sanctions against four West Bank settler-terrorists. Blinken accused the settlers of “undermin[ing] stability in the West Bank and the prospects of peace.” The US, however, declined to sanction the Israeli occupation forces which assist settler terror or take decisive action to halt the expansion of settlements. At present, the US government recognizes settler terror as an existing threat to Palestinian life, but takes no effective action against the settlers and their backers; US action was limited to four individuals while their state backers escape consequences. Considering the US’s inaction on Israeli settler violence, it is impossible to imagine the US government lifting a finger to enforce international law in the increasingly likely event of Gaza settlement.


-Joseph Fandrey is an intern at Massachusetts Peace Action.