A leaked policy document from Israel’s Ministry of Intelligence has revealed a controversial plan to relocate the entire population of Gaza to the Sinai region of Egypt. The ten-page document, dated October 13, proposes the establishment of tent cities in Sinai as an initial measure to accommodate the displaced residents of Gaza. These tent cities would then be developed into permanent settlements, with a “sterile zone of several kilometers” separating them from the Israeli border.
The plan advocates for informing Gaza’s 2.3 million residents that there is no hope of returning to the territories that Israel will soon occupy and attributes the loss of their land to the leadership of Hamas. The document suggests that US support is crucial to the success of this initiative. It proposes that the US exert pressure on countries like Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates to contribute either in resources or in accepting displaced persons. Additionally, Spain, Greece, and Canada are identified as potential avenues for resettling refugees from Gaza.
The leaked document has sparked outrage, with the Sicha Mekomit news site characterizing the plan as “the ethnic cleansing of Gaza.” The Ministry of Intelligence, however, argues that the policy would result in fewer casualties among the civilian population compared to the ongoing cycle of Hamas attacks and Israeli reprisals. It is important to note that the Ministry of Intelligence does not oversee the security and intelligence agencies of Israel but rather provides studies and policy papers for government review and implementation.
The Ministry of Intelligence is led by Gila Gamliel, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. This is not the first time that the concept of ethnic cleansing in Gaza has been suggested by Netanyahu’s allies. Just weeks before, the Meshgav Institute, a right-wing think tank, published a similar policy paper describing the conflict as a “rare opportunity” for the relocation and final settlement of the entire Gaza population. The Meshgav Institute is headed by Meir Ben Shabat, who served as Netanyahu’s national security adviser from 2017 to 2021.
Netanyahu’s office has responded to the uproar, stating that the Ministry of Intelligence’s document represents “initial thoughts” on the future of Gaza and will not be considered until the war is over. It is worth noting that the policy paper from the Meshgav Institute was swiftly deleted after receiving international condemnation.
The leaked document has ignited intense debate, with critics condemning it as a form of forced displacement tantamount to ethnic cleansing. Supporters argue that it seeks to address the ongoing conflict and reduce civilian casualties. As the situation unfolds, the international community will closely monitor developments and assess the potential consequences of such a plan.