Far-right minister calls for Israel to ‘fully occupy’ Gaza, reestablish settlements

Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu says anyone hoping a Palestinian body will govern Strip ‘doesn’t remember what happened’ on October 7

Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu attends the funeral of Israeli soldier Moshe Yedidia Leiter, at Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem on November 12, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu attends the funeral of Israeli soldier Moshe Yedidia Leiter, at Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem on November 12, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu, of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, said Friday that Israel “should fully occupy the Gaza Strip” following the war, claiming the Palestinians are incapable of controlling the territory without turning it into a terror hotbed.

“Anyone who is today selling the idea that [the Palestinians] can go back to running things doesn’t remember what happened on [October 7],” he told Kan public radio.

Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, dismantling its settlements in the territory and leaving it in the control of the Palestinian Authority. However, Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, and no elections have been held since. In the years since the withdrawal from Gaza, Israel has faced repeated attacks from terror groups, primarily Hamas, based in the coastal enclave

Since the terror onslaught in southern Israel of October 7, when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists killed more than 1,200 people, mostly civilians murdered in their homes and at a music festival amid brutal atrocities, and seized some 240 hostages, Jerusalem has refused to say what will happen to the enclave once its goal of removing Hamas from power is achieved.

Eliyahu did not say how he envisions Israeli rule in Gaza either. Asked by the interviewer if Israeli authorities should be overseeing civil affairs, including all that entails, he demurred, saying only that the Palestinians cannot do so.

He added that he wanted “to reestablish settlements” in the Strip, but acknowledged that “this isn’t necessarily the time for that.”

While the United States has called repeatedly for Israel to return to the negotiating table and begin working toward a two-state solution with the Palestinians once the war is over, Israeli officials have pushed back against the idea.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel would retain an open-ended security presence in Gaza and ruled out any possibility for the Palestinian Authority to return to the Gaza Strip as its governing body.

Despite his insistence that Israel needs to maintain control over Gaza’s security, Netanyahu has also stressed that Israel does not wish to displace Palestinians and has no plans to conquer, occupy or govern the Gaza Strip.

Otzma Yehudit MK Limor Son Har-Melech addresses a crowd of hundreds of activists on the backdrop of a sign that says, ‘Returning to Gaza Strip, Settlements Bring Security,’ in Ashdod on November 22, 2023. (Mati Wagner/Times of Israel)

Members of his government have been more outspoken, however. In addition to Eliyahu, Otzma Yehudit MK Limor Son Har-Melech has been vocal about her desire to see Israel return to the Gaza Strip.

During a November conference titled “Returning to Gaza Strip, Settlements Bring Security,” Son Har-Melech called for Israel to resettle the entirety of the Gaza Strip.

She told attendees: “There is no escape from returning and fully controlling the Gaza Strip, full control that will include extensive and flourishing settlements in the entire Strip. Not like the Gush Katif settlements that were concentrated in a few isolated areas, but settlement for the entire length and width of the Strip.”

Eliyahu made headlines in November when he said one of Israel’s options in the war against Hamas could be to drop a nuclear bomb on Gaza.

During the same interview, he also backed retaking the Strip and rebuilding the Israeli settlements that existed there before Israel withdrew from the area unilaterally in 2005, and when asked about the fate of the Palestinian population, he said: “They can go to Ireland or deserts; the monsters in Gaza should find a solution by themselves.”

His comments were quickly disavowed by Netanyahu, who temporarily suspended the minister from cabinet meetings in a largely symbolic slap on the wrist.

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