• Washington had earlier rejected a proposal to resettle Palestinians outside of Gaza as “inflammatory”

TEL AVIV (Agencies): Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has rejected US criticism of proposals to resettle Palestinians in territories outside of Gaza, saying in a message posted on social media that Israel is “not another star on the American flag.”

Ben-Gvir, along with Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, have in recent days advocated plans for the post-war “voluntary migration” of Palestinians from the blockaded Gaza enclave.

Israeli officials have conducted secret talks with representatives from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and other African nations, over the possible resettlement of Palestinians once the war with Hamas has concluded, the Times of Israel said on Wednesday.

Smotrich said around 70% of Israel’s population support such proposals for “voluntary” migration. He told Israeli public broadcaster KAN this week that “2 million people [in Gaza] wake up every morning with a desire to destroy the State of Israel and slaughter, rape, and murder Jews.”

Ben-Gvir added separately that Israel wants “to encourage willful emigration, and we need to find countries willing to take [Palestinians] in.”

The rhetoric from the two Israeli officials was rejected as “inflammatory and irresponsible” in a statement issued by Washington’s State Department on Tuesday, prompting Ben-Gvir to post on X (formerly Twitter) that, while Washington’s help was appreciated, this was a matter for Israel to decide.

“Really appreciate the United States of America,” he wrote on Tuesday, “but we are not another star on the American flag.”

“The United States is our best friend, but first of all we will do what is best for the State of Israel: the migration of hundreds of thousands from Gaza will allow the residents of the enclave to return home and live in security and protect the IDF soldiers.”

In its comments on Tuesday objecting to the statements from Ben-Gvir and Smotrich, US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Washington had been “told repeatedly and consistently” by Israel’s government, including by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that “such statements do not reflect” formal Israeli policy.

“We have been clear, consistent, and unequivocal that Gaza is Palestinian land and will remain Palestinian land, with Hamas no longer in control of its future and no terror groups able to threaten Israel,” the State Department added.

In December, US President Joe Biden namechecked Ben-Gvir and his allies in a speech in which he said some members of Israel’s coalition appeared to want “retribution” against all Palestinians in response to Hamas’ October 7 cross-border attack.

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