Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said on Monday that he had no plans to expel Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, after members of the ruling Likud party called for the removal of Arabs from the region.
Rivlin’s comments come after a variety of statements from Likud ministers in recent days, including Transportation Minister Miri Regev who suggested forcible transfer of Arabs from the strip and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin who positioned it as a population transfer.
In a statement issued by the President’s Residence, Rivlin said, “The president’s comments should be a reminder to all: we are talking about human beings, with their own hopes, dreams and emotions, and not just about diplomatic calculations.
The president does not support any forced transfer of population, and there is absolutely no plan or initiative to do so.”
Rivlin also called on all elected officials, including members of the government, to remember the complex reality of the Gaza Strip which is home to more than two million Palestinians, many of whom live in poverty and unemployment.
Rivlin’s comments, which were welcomed by international organizations and rights groups, appear to be a rebuke of the recent rhetoric from some Likud ministers and other government officials, suggesting that forcible population transfer is a solution to the political stalemate with the Palestinians.
The president’s comments also come against the backdrop of a recent surge in violence between Israel and Gaza and the launch of a planned expansion of Jewish settlements in the disputed West Bank territory.