A pair of Israeli lawmakers from opposing parties within the Knesset (Jewish Parliament) are calling on all Western nations to take in refugees from Gaza displaced by the Israel-Hamas war. In an opinion piece published on Tuesday, Knesset members Danny Danon and Ram Ben-Barak urged the West to “welcome” Gaza’s 2.3 million civilians, stressing the “moral imperative” to show them compassion.
“Hamas’s unprovoked terrorist attack on Oct. 7 has endangered not only Israel but the more than two million people who live in the Gaza Strip,” stated Danon and Ben-Barak in a Tuesday op-ed published by the Wall Street Journal. The lawmakers went on to criticize Hamas for its unwillingness to take responsibility for Gazans under its jurisdiction since 2006, but they also point out that the United Nations has done “nothing tangible to help Gaza’s residents.”
However, Danon and Ben-Barak offer a solution for the civilians caught in the crisis:
One idea is for countries around the world to accept limited numbers of Gazan families who have expressed a desire to relocate.
Danny Danon is a senior member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party and previously served as Israel’s Representative to the United Nations. Ram Ben-Barak is a member of the Yesh Atid Party, Likud’s centrist liberal opposition. Ben-Barak was deputy director of the Mossad from 2009 to 2011 and also served as director general for the Ministry of Intelligence Services.
Both men hold positions on the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, and despite their partisan differences, they share the assessment that relocation is the most humane option for Gazans in crisis. The op-ed continued:
[C]ountries around the world should offer a haven for Gaza residents who seek relocation. Countries can accomplish this by creating well-structured and internationally coordinated relocation programs. Members of the international community can collaborate to provide one-time financial-support packages to Gazans interested in moving to help with relocation costs and to ease refugees’ acclimation to their new communities.
In order to persuade otherwise reluctant nations to support the cause, Danon and Ben-Barak cite past examples of Europe and the United States welcoming refugees and outcasts with open arms. Germany, Austria, and Sweden, for example, took in “large numbers” of Bosnian refugees displaced by the wars in former Yugoslavia. Albania and Northern Macedonia accommodated civilians from Kosovo, and the West as a whole took in millions of asylum-seekers from Syria after the country’s civil war broke out in 2011.
“We simply need a handful of the world’s nations to share the responsibility of hosting Gazan residents,” the lawmakers wrote. “Even if countries took in as few as 10,000 people each, it would help alleviate the crisis.”
The proposal from the two lawmakers echoes a similar suggestion made in an Israeli government document leaked to the press in late October. The policy document published internally by Israel’s Intelligence Ministry—the very agency Ram Ben-Barak once oversaw—suggested that the “evacuation of the civilian population from Gaza to Sinai” was a “natural and necessary result” of Israel’s war effort.
In order to facilitate this relocation, the Intelligence Ministry recommended incentivizing other nations to take in displaced Gazans, beginning with the United States. Other possible relocation sites included Arab nations like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, European countries like Greece and Spain, and countries that share Canada’s “permissive immigration policy.”
The Intelligence Ministry’s assessment also called for the recruitment of “large advertising and media agencies” to promote the plan in the West without making Israel seem like an aggressor. Additional marketing campaigns within Gaza would present the relocation as an act of “divine judgment” from Allah, compelling the locals to accept it.
While the Israeli government quickly downplayed the leaked document as a hypothetical exercise, the appearance of an opinion column from Knesset members in a major Western publication seems to be exactly in line with the Ministry’s plan. Even the goal of presenting the migration as a moral issue remains in effect.
As Danon and Ben-Barak write:
The international community has a moral imperative—and an opportunity—to demonstrate compassion, help the people of Gaza move toward a more prosperous future and work together to achieve greater peace and stability in the Middle East.
Following the publication of the op-ed, Israel’s Minister of Finance and Chairman of Religious Zionism Bezalel Smotrich applauded the idea as the best solution for Gaza.
“The reception of the refugees by the countries of the world that really want their best interests…is the only solution that will bring an end to the suffering and pain of Jews and Arabs alike,” he stated. “The State of Israel will no longer be able to accept the existence of an independent entity in Gaza, which, as stated, is inherently based on hatred of Israel and the desire to destroy it.”
In response to what many Palestinian allies are calling an attempted ethnic cleansing, neighboring countries are refusing to accept any refugees from Gaza. Egypt and Jordan, which had already rejected the idea, are now joined by Hungary and other European nations. Meanwhile, the United States under the Biden administration is pushing back against calls for a ceasefire, pledging to support Israel’s continued campaign against Hamas.