Skip to main content

Ben-Gvir: 'I will be very happy to live' in Israeli-occupied Gaza after war

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has reiterated his call for residents to leave the Gaza Strip voluntarily and for Israeli Jews to settle there in their stead.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) greets National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, during a media briefing ahead of a vote on the national budget, on May 23, 2023, at the parliament in Jerusalem. (Photo by GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP) (Photo by GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP via Getty Images)

Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir called on the government Tuesday to encourage Palestinians to emigrate willingly from the Gaza Strip and to spur Israeli Jews to settle in the occupied territory, asserting that he himself is willing to move there.

Interviewed by the ultra-Orthodox newspaper Kikar Hashabat, Ben-Gvir said that when the Gaza war ends, Israel must remain the sole ruler of the enclave. "Only the state of Israel. No one else. A full occupation of Gaza. Israeli control. Jewish settlement," he said, adding, "But that is not enough. There is another very important, essential step, which is encouraging emigration."

Asked to clarify what he meant on Jewish settlement in Gaza, Ben-Gvir said he was not only referring to the Gush Katif settlements evacuated in 2005. "Not only that. If we do indeed see emigration, with hundreds of thousands leaving, we can bring in more and more and more people," he said, adding, "I will be very happy to live in Gaza." 

Ben-Gvir reiterated his demand to be part of the decision-making circle on the Gaza war strategy. Asked if he would prefer to join the small cabinet or for the war cabinet to be disbanded so that all decisions will be made in the diplomatic-security cabinet of which he is part, Ben-Gvir said he would agree to either of these choices. 

He explained, "First, we must stop the delivery of fuel to Gaza. No more fuel if they don’t bring back the hostages. We must reduce humanitarian aid. Humanitarian only in exchange for humanitarian. This is a line I have not seen in the cabinet. I would go into Rafah all the way, conduct war all the way."

For months, Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich have been calling on the government to encourage what they describe as a "willing transfer" of Palestinians out of the Gaza Strip. 

On Jan. 3, the State Department spoke out against their messaging in a press statement reading, “This rhetoric is inflammatory and irresponsible," and "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." The statement stressed, "We have been clear, consistent, and unequivocal that Gaza is Palestinian land and will remain Palestinian land."

Nevertheless, Smotrich said at a Jan. 22 meeting of his Religious Zionism party, "Along with the military pressure, we need to act in Gaza at a strategic level, occupy the Gaza Strip and start encouraging emigration and the renewal of Jewish settlement. Only in this way will we succeed in neutralizing the ticking bomb that threatens all the citizens of Israel."