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US, France condemn Israeli plan to deport Gazans

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WASHINGTON: The United States and France have issued strong condemnations of Israel’s controversial plan to forcibly displace Palestinians from Gaza, leading to an escalating diplomatic standoff.

US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, reiterated the unequivocal rejection of the plan, cautioning against any mass displacement and addressing inflammatory statements by Israeli ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir.

“There should be no mass displacement of Palestinians from Gaza, and we reject the recent inflammatory statements from Israeli ministers Smotrich and Ben Gvir,” emphasised Ambassador Greenfield, echoing the firm stance of the United States.

US State Department Spoke­sperson Matthew Miller reinforced this position, stating, “The United States rejects the inflammatory and irresponsible statements… We have been clear, consistent, and unequivocal that Gaza is Palestinian land and will remain Palestinian land.”

Miller said the deportation rhetoric “should stop immediately,” and the Palestinians should remain in their lands, living peacefully with the Israelis. “That is the future we seek,” he added.

French Ambassador to the UN, Nicolas de Rivière, aligned with the US stance, rejecting the Israeli deportation plan and firmly opposing forced displacement. “France is opposed to the forced displacement of populations. That’s very clear-cut… We will not support the forced displacement of people,” de Riviere declared.

De Riviere emphasised the need for Palestinians to continue living safely in Gaza, denouncing the destruction of civilian infrastructure and calling for an end to military actions targeting civilians. He hinted at a potential UN Security Council meeting to address the escalating situation in the Red Sea, underlining the gravity of the international concern.

The French envoy added a significant dimension to the discourse by highlighting that the Gaza war would headline France’s presidency of the UN Security Council. While recognising Israel’s right to self-defence as justified, he expressed concern over the “very broad and massive” military operation in Gaza, calling it a violation of the Geneva Conventions and the rules of war.

“The two-state solution is inevitable to end the war between Israel and Palestine,” declared the French ambassador, underscoring the necessity of implementing the peace process based on the Oslo Accords. He lamented the total absence of any Middle East peace process since 2014 and criticised recent normalisation agreements between Israel and Arab countries for being achieved “at the expense of the Palestinian state.”

“In the last two decades, we should have used that time to implement the peace process based on the Oslo Accords, rather than let the initiatives gather dust,” Ambassador de Rivière urged, providing a comprehensive perspective on the need for a diplomatic resolution amid the ongoing crisis.

Ignoring the international outcry, Ben-Gvir, a vocal advocate of the deportation plan, defended his position at a recent meeting of his faction. “We cannot withdraw from any territory we are in in the Gaza Strip. Not only do I not rule out Jewish settlement there, I believe it is also an important thing,” he asserted.

Smotrich, another proponent of the plan, added, “We want to encourage willful emigration, and we need to find countries willing to take them in,” expressing a refusal to transfer Palestinian tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority (PA).

The US reaction underscored growing frustration in Washington with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, which the Biden administration has continued to support diplomatically and militarily but has increasingly sparred with regarding planning for Gaza once the fighting ends.

Published in Dawn, January 4th, 2024


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