EU nations have denounced two Israeli far-right ministers’ calls for the ‘voluntary emigration’ of Palestinians from Gaza and the building of Israeli settlements in the besieged territory.
The comments were made Monday by Israel’s firebrand National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich. Both are known for their hardline, religious-conservative stances.
Israel should “concentrate on encouraging the migration of the residents of Gaza,” Ben-Gvir told reporters, adding that Israel would “permanently control” the Gaza strip.
Ben-Gvir, known as one of the most hardline members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet, also endorsed the rebuilding of Jewish settlements in the besieged Palestinian territory.
The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, responded on Wednesday evening on social platform X, condemning the “inflammatory and irresponsible statements.”
“Forced displacements are strictly prohibited as a grave violation of international humanitarian law,” Borrell added.
The EU condemnation has also been echoed by member states including France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands.
France’s Foreign Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna denounced the statements as “provocative” and “irresponsible.”
In a statement on X, the Dutch foreign ministry said that the Netherlands “rejects any calls for Palestinian displacement from Gaza or reduction of Palestinian territory,” adding that the Israeli ministers’ proposals does not “fit a future two-state solution, with a viable Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel.”
The criticism from EU governments follows similarly scathing condemnation from the United States and the United Nations.
Israeli extremism threatens to upend peace proposals
The hardline position of the far-right ministers is highly problematic for the European Union, which is aiming to spearhead international efforts to find a long-term peaceful solution to the conflict.
Josep Borrell, who said Wednesday that an international solution “imposed from the outside” was the only viable route to a peaceful resolution between Israelis and Palestinians, has said Israeli occupation of Gaza cannot be contemplated.
The EU executive’s President Ursula von der Leyen – who has consistently defended Israel’s right to self-defence since the outbreak of the war against Hamas – has also blatantly rejected the forced displacement of Palestinians or the long-term presence of Israeli security as part of her five principles for Gaza’s future.
The EU has mulled plans to sanction extremist Israeli settlers in the West Bank, where a fresh bout of attacks on Palestinian communities has been seen since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war following Hamas’ deadly attack on Israel on 7 October.
Documents seen by Euronews in December showed the European bloc could issue sanctions such as visa bans against Israeli settlers responsible for such attack. The US and the UK issued such measures in December.
The EU has repeatedly condemned Israeli settlers’ attacks against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank but has steered clear of issuing sanctions.
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