Thousands of Israeli ministers, rabbis, public figures and members of parliament attended a conference in Jerusalem on Sunday, calling for resettlement to Gaza and making statements widely seen as genocidal.
The event, titled “Israel Victory Conference – Settlement Brings Security: Return to the Gaza Strip and Northern Samaria,” focused on the reconstruction of Israeli settlements in Gaza and the call for the expulsion of Palestinians from the besieged enclave.
Participants presented details of proposed future settlements, maps, preparation steps, and called on decision-makers to support the resettlement plans.
The conference took place just days after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on South Africa’s genocide case against Israel, for which it heard testimony earlier this month.
The Court gave Israel six orders regarding the siege and bombardment of Gaza. One of them stipulates that Israel “must take measures within its power to prevent and punish direct and public incitement to commit genocide against members of Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip”.
The court also cited a series of statements made by Israeli leaders as evidence of incitement and dehumanizing language toward Palestinians, including comments made by Israeli President Isaac Herzog.
The “Israel Victory” event was attended by 11 ministers and 15 MPs from the coalition. Here are some of the statements made at the conference, which could constitute a violation of ICJ orders.
Encourage Palestinians to leave, says Ben Gvir
Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir called for Palestinians to be “voluntarily encouraged to leave” the Gaza Strip.
In response to public calls for Palestinians to be transferred out of Gaza, Mr. Ben Gvir said: “You are right, voluntary encouragement, let them leave here.
“We need to return to Gush Katif and northern Samaria… if you don’t want this to happen again for the seventh or tenth time, we need to go back home and control the territory, encouraging immigration and punishment of death for terrorists,” he added.
Gush Katif is a group of 17 Israeli settlements located in the south of the Gaza Strip. During the conference, Mr. Ben Gvir, along with other ministers, signed a petition for “the victory and revival of the Gaza colony”.
The document states that the signatories committed to “develop vibrant Jewish settlements in Gaza.”
Participants were then filmed celebrating the event by waving the Israeli flag and clapping. After Ben Gvir’s speech, we could hear people chanting “death to the Arabs”.
Some of the statements made at the conference sparked negative reactions, with some pointing out that they could contravene ICJ rulings.
Itay Epshtain, special advisor to the Norwegian Refugee Council based in Israel, shared a video in which Ben Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich can be seen arm in arm, dancing together at the conference.
The human rights lawyer said the image “would be part of irrefutable evidence of non-compliance” with the ICJ’s recent decision to take all measures in its power to prevent acts of genocide and punish acts of incitement.
Smotrich calls for the return of the settlers
Mr. Smotrich echoed Mr. Ben Gvir’s statements, calling on Israeli settlers to go to Gaza.
“Many of our children who were expelled from Gaza need to come back as fighters, we need to make sure we come back as settlers,” he said.
Israeli politician and tourism minister Haim Katz made similar statements at the conference.
“Today, after 18 years, we have the opportunity to stand up, build and expand the land of Israel,” he said.
Support from the Minister of Housing
Yitzhak Goldknopf, Minister of Housing and Construction, called the return of Jewish settlements to Gaza a “correction of a historic injustice.”
“As housing minister, I will support this project if the government decides,” he said. “The land of Israel belongs entirely to the people of Israel. Abandoning the land of the State of Israel not only does not bring security, but leads to the shedding of Jewish blood.”
Don’t give them food
Daniella Weiss, the former far-right mayor of the Kedumim settlement in the occupied West Bank, has also called for starving Palestinians to force them out of Gaza.
“The Arabs will leave… if we don’t give them food, if we don’t give them anything, they will have to leave. The world will accept them,” she told a reporter at the conference.
Ben Gvir declares: “We are going to start the conflict”
During the conference, Mr. Ben Gvir called for a dual approach to Gaza, which involves encouraging the departure of current residents while facilitating and encouraging the influx of Israeli settlers into the region.
“We will trigger conflict to prevent uncertainty and wandering from getting worse,” he said.
“It is essential to regain and assert control of territory in the south. We must also design a solution for the population that is moral, rationally coherent and beneficial,” he added.
He concluded by saying that “encouraging emigration from Gaza is a necessity”.
Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karai reiterated Ben Gvir’s comments by stating that Israelis had “an obligation to act for our own good… even if this war turns voluntary migration into a situation where it is forced, we must colonize Gaza with security forces and settlers.”