Arab MK calls Israeli efforts to encourage Gaza emigration ‘ethnic cleansing’

At Joint List campaign launch, Aida Touma-Sliman says Netanyahu should be put on trial at the ICC ‘for all the crimes he’s committed’

MK Aida Touma-Sliman of the Joint List speaks at the party's Hebrew-language campaign launch in Tel Aviv, August 20, 2019. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)
MK Aida Touma-Sliman of the Joint List speaks at the party's Hebrew-language campaign launch in Tel Aviv, August 20, 2019. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

A lawmaker from the Joint (Arab) List on Tuesday accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of supporting “ethnic cleansing” after an official said Israel is actively promoting the emigration of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to other countries.

“[Netanyahu] deserves a defendant’s seat at [the International Criminal Court] in the Hague for all the crimes he’s committed and plans to commit,” MK Aida Touma-Sliman said at the Joint List’s Hebrew-language campaign launch in Tel Aviv.

“Yesterday we discovered that [Netanyahu] is planning on opening the gates of Gaza in order to carry out an ethnic cleansing, to support the residents [of Gaza] to leave,” she added.

On Monday, a senior Israeli official said Israel is ready to carry the costs of helping Gazans emigrate, and would even be willing to consider letting them to use an Israeli air field close to Gaza to allow them to leave for their new host countries, the official said, apparently referring to air force bases deep inside Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, speaks with an IDF officer near the border with the Gaza Strip on March 28, 2019. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

More than 35,000 Gazans left the Strip in 2018, the official said, not including those who left but later returned.

According to the official, European and Middle Eastern countries had been approached by Israel to accept Gazans who want to leave the Strip, but none had agreed to absorb them.

The official said the National Security Council had been spearheading the effort, with Netanyahu’s blessing, for about a year, and that the program has been discussed in the security cabinet several times, the official said.

The Hamas terror group — which took over Gaza by force in 2007, leading Israel and Egypt to impose a blockade — has imposed measures to stem the tide of emigration, according to a report by the Haaretz daily in May.

Gaza shares one tightly controlled civilian crossing with Israel, generally only used for humanitarian cases. Most Gazans leave the Strip via the Rafah crossing with Egypt, which is only opened sporadically.

While the crossing is intended for brief trips out of the beleaguered enclave, many residents — mainly young and educated — use the Rafah crossing as an opportunity to escape permanently, usually seeking refugee status in Europe.

Palestinians load bags into a bus before traveling to Egypt through the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip, on September 26, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Also at the Joint List campaign launch, Touma-Sliman acknowledged the choice of the venue was indicative of the party’s efforts to appeal to Jewish voters.

“We are running in order to provide citizens with the battle that needs to be waged in this country. Yes, we didn’t want and don’t want Netanyahu as prime minister. If it was in our hands, he wouldn’t even deserve to be a Knesset member,” she said.

Touma-Sliman also laid out some of the party’s main campaign planks.

“We want to manage the struggle in your name against the occupation, against the crimes of the settlements, to speak out loudly against Trump’s deal of the century,” she said, employing a widely used term for the yet-to-be released US plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

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