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Controversy erupts after 12 Israeli ministers call for Jewish Gaza settlements after the war

Eisenkot, opposition slam ‘Settlements Bring Security and Victory’ conference

Israeli ministers and Knesset members dance during the 'Victory Conference' at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, January 28, 2024. (Photo: Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

After several right-wing government ministers and Knesset members attended a conference on Sunday demanding the establishment of Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip when the war ends, War Cabinet Minister Gadi Eisenkot and opposition leaders sharply rebuked the idea.

The conference, “Settlements Bring Security and Victory,” was held in Jerusalem’s International Convention Center and organized by Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan and right-wing organization Nahala.

“Part of correcting the mistake of the Oslo Agreement, which led to October 7, is the return of settlements to Gush Katif,” said Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir during his address.

'Gush Katif' is the Hebrew term for the settlement bloc that existed in the Gaza Strip until it was unilaterally withdrawn by Israel in 2006.

On Monday, left-leaning members of the government and opposition leaders leveled heavy criticism at the politicians who attended the event.

Eisenkot, a member of the National Unity party, was absent from the conference and said those who attended had “learned nothing at all about the importance of acting with a broad national consensus and solidarity in Israeli society from the events of the past year.”

“While IDF soldiers are fighting in a just war, side by side, and we are choosing to look for what unifies while putting fundamental differences aside for the sake of the common goals... others find time for an event that divides Israeli society, increases the lack of trust in the government and its elected officials and, above all, sharpens the division over what unifies us,” Eisenkot wrote on X.

Israeli media have speculated that Eisenkot and his National Unity party, which joined Netanyahu’s government after the outbreak of war, have been looking for an opportunity to leave for some weeks now.

The party has criticized Netanyahu's lack of a plan for the Gaza Strip ‘the day after’ the war and has been pushing for a new hostage deal with Hamas, even at the price of a longer pause in the fighting.

TheU.S. Biden administration and members of the National Unity party, including Eisenkot and party leader Minister Benny Gantz, have pressured Israel’s leadership to present a vision for what would happen with the enclave on after the war.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, when asked about the conference at a press briefing on Sunday, said that no final decision on a policy had been made.

“Our policy is determined by the expanded cabinet and everyone else has different opinions. This conference does not bind the Israeli government,” he said, adding that adding that he is still opposed creating Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid also blasted the conference attendees: “The most harmful government in the country’s history reaches a new low.”

“This does international damage, damage to a possible hostage deal, it puts IDF soldiers at risk, it’s a terrible irresponsibility,” Lapid added.

In his speech at the conference, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said that only resettling the Gaza Strip could bring security.

“The people of Israel are at a significant and important crossroads,” he said.

“We have to decide – do we once again run from terrorism and allow a murderous hotbed to grow again beyond the fence, or do we settle the land, control it, fight terrorism, and bring security to the entire State of Israel.”

“You know what the answer is: Without settlement, there is no security, and without security at the borders there is no security in all of Israel,” he added.

Other politicians who participated in the conference were Settlement Minister Orit Strock, and three of their colleagues from the Religious Zionism party; Ben Gvir and his Jewish Power party; and the head of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, Yitzhak Goldknopf.

Among attendees from the Likud party, the largest in the government, were five ministers, including Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, and eight additional Knesset members.

Overall, 12 government ministers and 15 Knesset members took part in the event.

None of the members of the National Unity party attended the conference nor did representatives from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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