Undeterred by the ICJ, ministers and settler leaders promoted plans to expel Palestinians and ‘return’ Israelis to Gaza at a major conference in Jerusalem.

by Oren Ziv, +972 Magazine

The strangest sight at the “Conference for Israel’s Victory,” which took place on Sunday evening at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center, wasn’t the map depicting dozens of new settlements that Israeli settlers hope to establish throughout the Gaza Strip after the war is over. It was the moment when thousands of people danced around the hall singing celebratory songs — a rare spectacle in post-October 7 Israel, with most of the nation still mourning the victims of the Hamas-led attacks and fearing for the safety of the hostages in Gaza.

Yet for the conference’s participants — among them 11 cabinet ministers and 15 members of the coalition, who gleefully joined in the dancing — there is indeed something to celebrate. For them, October 7 and the subsequent war have presented an unprecedented opportunity to reconquer Gaza, and, if possible, to engineer the situation such that there will be no Palestinians left when the new settlers arrive.

smotrich speaks at a podium

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich began his speech with some reservation toward the joy that predominated: “I must say that I have mixed emotions when it comes to the atmosphere in this hall,” he said, before adding immediately: “But there is something natural and healthy about what’s here, in the strength, in the joy, in the devotion to the Land of Israel, which has the potential to grant enormous strength.” National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir talked of “voluntary migration,” apparently understanding the need to moderate his language somewhat in light of the ongoing legal proceedings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

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