A leaked document drafted by Israel’s Intelligence Ministry proposes the ethnic cleansing of the approximately 2.3 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip as a potential solution to Israel’s war against Hamas.
The document, dated October 13, was published by the Hebrew language website Sicha Mekomit, and the Israeli government has confirmed its authenticity. According to The Times of Israel, Israeli government officials are downplaying the document, saying it only represents “initial thoughts” and that they are currently focused on the war effort.
The proposed plan would involve pushing the Palestinians out of Gaza into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. They would first live in tent cities until permanent structures are built. The plan also includes a several-kilometer-wide “sterile” buffer zone inside Egypt so the Palestinians could not live on the border.
The document proposes two other potential plans, including handing Gaza over to the Palestinian Authority once Hamas is defeated. Another proposal would involve Israel propping up a new Arab regime in Gaza. But the document says these two proposals would not sufficiently deter future attacks and that the preferred option is cleansing Gaza of Palestinians.
The writers of the document said allowing the PA to administer Gaza is the “most dangerous alternative” of the three options because it could lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state.
While Israeli government officials are downplaying the document and its existence does not mean it’s a policy Israel will implement, some parts of the proposal are being carried out. The document says the first phase of the plan would be to evacuate the northern Gaza Strip, which Israel has ordered, and to focus airstrikes on the north before a ground invasion.
The biggest impediment to Israel cleansing Gaza of Palestinians is opposition from Egypt and Arab and international pressure. The document says that part of the plan is for the US to exert “pressure on Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the [UAE] to contribute to the initiative either in resources or in accepting displaced persons.”
So far, the US has expressed opposition to the idea of kicking Palestinians out of Gaza. President Biden spoke with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Sunday, and according to the White House, the two leaders discussed the importance of “ensuring that Palestinians in Gaza are not displaced to Egypt or any other nation.”
However, there are indications the US might be preparing for the possibility of an influx of Palestinian refugees leaving Gaza. In a letter to Congress requesting $105 billion to spend on the Gaza war, Ukraine, Taiwan, and other areas, the White House said some of the funding would be needed for the “potential needs of Gazans fleeing to neighboring countries.”