Netanyahu Claims He Has No Intention of Displacing Gaza’s Palestinians

The shift in rhetoric comes a day before the ICJ holds its first hearing on South Africa's genocide case against Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday insisted Israel doesn’t plan to expel Palestinians from Gaza or permanently occupy the territory, a shift in rhetoric that comes a day before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) holds its first hearing on South Africa’s genocide case against Israel.

“I want to make a few points absolutely clear: Israel has no intention of permanently occupying Gaza or displacing its civilian population,” Netanyahu said in a video posted to social media where he was speaking in English, making clear the message is for a global audience.

Netanyahu’s message is also likely an effort to placate the Biden administration, which has been critical of Israeli ministers who are explicitly calling for the expulsion of Palestinians from Gaza and the establishment of Jewish settlements in the Strip.

“Our goal is to rid Gaza of Hamas terrorists and free our hostages. Once this is achieved, Gaza can be demilitarized and deradicalized, thereby creating a possibility for a better future for Israel and Palestinians alike,” Netanyahu said.

But Netanyahu himself has previously said that he favors the idea of pushing Palestinians out of Gaza. “The prime minister told me two weeks ago in this room that it’s a good idea,” Israeli MK Danny Danon, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud Party, told The Times of Israel.

“We had a faction meeting a few weeks ago when I asked him about voluntary relocation and he said it’s a good idea and not easy to find countries that would accept Gazans,” Danon added. At the Likud meeting, Netanyahu said he was looking for other countries to “absorb” Palestinians, and Israeli media reports have said the idea is becoming official Israeli government policy.

Danon said Netanyahu has taken the idea off the table for now in the face of US pressure. “In the last few days, because of the pressure coming from a few countries, he stated that it’s not the position of the government and Israel is not promoting it. [US Secretary of State Antony] Blinken said he got assurances,” he said.

Danon and many other Israeli lawmakers and officials are still pushing for the plan to expel Palestinians. Israeli officials have framed the idea as “voluntary migration,” but Israel’s brutal campaign is making Gaza uninhabitable and is killing scores of Palestinians. So far, over 23,000 Palestinians have been killed, mostly women and children, and many more could die due to starvation and disease caused by the Israeli siege.

South Africa’s 84-page application to the ICJ cites the mass slaughter of Palestinians and the genocidal rhetoric from Israeli officials to make the case that Israel has the intent and is taking the actions to carry out a genocide against Gaza’s Palestinian population. The US, which has provided unconditional military and political support for the slaughter, has slammed South Africa’s case, calling it “meritless.”

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.