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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Israel considers plan to resettle Palestinians in Africa – reports

Washington has rejected plans for the resettlement as “inflammatory and irresponsible”

Officials from Israel are holding clandestine discussions with the Democratic Republic of Congo and other African nations over plans for the resettlement of thousands of Palestinian migrants from Gaza, Israeli media has claimed.

Plans for the “voluntary” resettlement of people from the besieged Palestinian enclave to the central African country are “slowly” becoming a key policy of Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition, the Times of Israel reported on Wednesday, citing a senior government source. It added that Israel has held talks with several African countries to determine if they would accept migrants from Gaza.

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“Congo will be willing to take in migrants, and we’re in talks with others,” the news website said, quoting the unnamed official. Last Monday, Netanyahu told a meeting of his Likud party that he is progressing with plans for the migration of Gazans but that “our problem is [finding] countries that are willing to absorb Gazans.”

The Democratic Republic of Congo has high levels of poverty and inequality, a report by the World Food Program said, combined with recurring regional conflict and insecurity. The aid organization added that about 52.5% of its 5.5 million population lives below the poverty line.

On Tuesday, Washington rejected as “irresponsible” statements from Israeli officials over the proposed resettlement plan, including two who had called for the “voluntary migration” of Palestinians.

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“The United States rejects recent statements from Israeli Ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir advocating for the resettlement of Palestinians outside of Gaza,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a Tuesday statement.

He added: “The rhetoric is inflammatory and irresponsible.”

Smotrich dismissed Washington’s objection on Wednesday, claiming that some 70% of Israelis support the proposal because “two million people [in Gaza] wake up every morning with the desire to destroy the State of Israel.” Netanyahu’s office has previously issued statements to say that Smotrich and Ben Gvir do not represent official government policy over the conflict in Gaza.

The plan, though, will be necessary due to the postwar conditions of Gaza when the conflict subsides, Israel’s intelligence minister, Gila Gamliel, said on Tuesday at a conference in the Knesset. “At the end of the war, Hamas rule will collapse. There are no municipal authorities; the civilian population will be entirely dependent on humanitarian aid.”

Gamliel added to the Hebrew website Zman Israel that she expects 60% of Gaza’s agricultural land to be transformed into security buffer zones.

Israel has conducted prolonged air and ground attacks on the densely-populated Gaza enclave since the October 7 cross-border attack by the Palestinian militant group Hamas. More than 22,000 Palestinians have been killed, health officials say, while close to 1,200 Israelis are believed to have died in the Hamas assault.