On eve of ICJ genocide hearing, Netanyahu says Israel has ‘no intention’ of displacing Palestinians in Gaza


((JEWISH REVIEW)) — Under pressure from the Biden administration, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced that Israel has “no intention” of removing Palestinians from the Gaza Strip.

“I want to make a few points absolutely clear: Israel has no intention of permanently occupying Gaza or displacing its civilian population,” Netanyahu said in English in a minute-long video he posted Wednesday to social media. “Israel is fighting Hamas terrorists, not the Palestinian population, and we are doing so in full compliance with international law.”

Netanyahu’s comments came on the eve of the opening of genocide proceedings against Israel at the International Court of Justice.

They also followed weeks of pressure from the Biden administration to explicitly disavow the statements of far-right ministers, including Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, who have called for the removal of Palestinians in the wake of the war launched Oct. 7 when Hamas invaded Israel and killed about 1,200 people. More than 23,000 Palestinians have been killed since Israel launched counterstrikes, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, while more than 180 Israeli soldiers have been killed in Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza.

Later in the day, after Netanyahu’s comments, the U.S. State Department issued a statement saying the charge of genocide lacked merit.

Related: What you need to know about the genocide charge against Israel and how it will respond

“Allegations that Israel is committing genocide are unfounded,” said the statement. “In fact, it is those who are violently attacking Israel who continue to openly call for the annihilation of Israel and the mass murder of Jews. Genocide is one of the most heinous acts any entity or individual can commit, and such allegations should only be made with the greatest of care.”

South Africa, which brought the genocide claim to the court, has cited statements by the far-right ministers and others to make its case.

U.S.-Israel differences over the day after the war ends appear to persist, however. Biden has been pushing for Palestinian sovereignty in Gaza as a step toward Palestinian statehood; Netanyahu continues to oppose statehood.

“Our goal is to rid Gaza of Hamas terrorists and free our hostages,” the Israeli prime minister said. “Once this is achieved Gaza can be demilitarized and deradicalized, thereby creating a possibility for a better future for Israel and Palestinians alike.”