Will Palestinians Be Transferred Out of the Gaza Strip?

Will Palestinians Be Transferred Out of the Gaza Strip? January 9, 2024

CREDIT: ChrisO’s modification of 2004 UN Map of Israel

Until recently, the Israel-Hamas War in the Gaza Strip–which Israel enacted after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7th, resulting in 1,200 Jewish dearth–looked like Israel had no plan for Gaza and its Palestinian residents, a population of about 2,3 million people, after the war ends. So far, Israel reportedly has killed 23,000 Gazans and bombed the place so badly that 70% of the homes are now destroyed or unlivable.

The Israeli military started its destruction in northern Gaza and has been moving it southward. Over half of all Gazans are displaced and sheltering in the extreme south of the Strip. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the war will continue for “months” until the Israeli military has killed or thoroughly routed Hamas militants from their hundreds of miles of intricate tunnels, some of them as deep as fifty feet. The Israeli air force has dropped hundreds of 2,000-pound bombs, called “bunker busters,” on the Gaza Strip. The place is so destroyed that it will take a huge investment to make it livable again.

Now, it is being reported that Israel’s government is in disagreement about the future of the Gaza Strip after this war. Several government officials publicly or reportedly have favored the entire and permanent removal of all Palestinians from the Strip, one way or another. These right-wing government officials want to annex the Gaza Strip to Israel and populate it with Israeli Jews. Netanyahu reportedly has been in talks with Egypt and other nations, trying to persuade them to take Gazans as their citizens.

The New York Times reports today, “On Nov. 14, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said he supported “the voluntary emigration of Gaza Arabs to countries around the world.” Five days later, Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel endorsed “the voluntary resettlement of Palestinians in Gaza, for humanitarian reasons, outside of the strip.” And this report says The Times of Israel reported today that voluntary resettlement from Gaza is becoming “a key official policy of the government” of Israel.

But both US President Joe Biden and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi are adamantly opposed to relocating Palestinians out of the Gaza Strip. Although Biden has strongly supported Israel in its target of destroying or routing Hamas so that it can never govern the Gaza Strip again, Biden has been declaring that after this war there needs to be a serious effort to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But Netanyahu has countered that Israel will not agree to this. It remains to be seen if this clash could injure Israel’s relationship with the US, its #1 ally in the world.

This question–what happens to the Gaza Strip and its remaining Palestinian citizens after the war–relates to my book Palestine Is Coming: The Revival of Ancient Philistia (1990). In this book I propose an alternative two-state solution based on my interpretation of some biblical prophecies. It is that a land swap occurs in which Israel annexes all of the West Bank and a Palestinian state is established solely in the coastal plain south of Tel Aviv as a very expanded Gaza Strip, wherein Israel forfeits some of its coastal plain. This was the arrangement during antiquity, in the nation of the Philistines existed in the coastal plain, side-by-side with Israel in the hill country.

The main biblical text that suggest this arrangement is Isaiah 11.14. But it cannot be easily understood without having a background understanding of end times biblical prophecies as well as understanding all of Isaiah 11. This chapter begins with a prophecy about the Messiah coming as a Warrior-King to destroy Israel’s enemies (Isaiah 11.1-4). The apostle Paul affirms this by quoting some of it (2 Thessalonians 2.8). They have attacked Israel and are in the process of wiping the nation off the face of the earth. When Messiah appears, he will lead Israeli Jewish men in battle (cf. vv. 10-13). Then we read of this Jewish force, “But they will swoop down of the backs of the Philistines in the west” (v. 14). This prophecy indicates at least two things: (1) the Jews will advance westward from their Judean hill country to attack a neighboring people in the coastal plain, so that this region is not a part of the Land of Israel, and (2) those people the Jews attack are “Philistines.”

After 33 years since this book’s publication, I have hardly convinced anyone of this interpretation. But when I ask them to interpret this text, they do silent. I think the text is very clear, that Israel will not possess that coastal plain. But the main objection people have to my interpretation is that I’m saying the Bible–and therefore God speaking through his prophet Isaiah–predicts that those enemies the Jews with attack on their western flank are Philistines. How can the Bible say that since there supposedly have been no Philistines in existence since over 2,000 years ago?

I believe the only way that this text can possibly be understood as true is that modern day Palestinians who have had ancestors who lived for many generations in this coastal region have a stronger genetic link to the ancient Philistines than to any other people group. I suspect that this may someday be proved by DNA comparisons between them and Philistine DNA which Israel now owns. But as far as I know, no such comparison has been made. (However, it might be more meaningful if that DNA taken from 3,000 year-old Philistine skeletons discovered at Ashkelon were a few hundred years more recent.)

I think Israel doesn’t want this DNA comparison because, if what I suspect is true, that would be strong support for Palestinians to do like Jews did with their 1948 Proclamation of Independence and demand the right of possession to the land of their ancestors of antiquity. Netanyahu has argued strongly against any genetic connection between Palestinians and ancient Philistines. On July 7, 2019, he tweeted, “There’s no connection between the ancient Philistines & the modern Palestinians, whose ancestors came from the Arabian Peninsula to the Land of Israel thousands of year later.” But this remark is skewed, and many scholars afterwards argued against it.

So, due this Isaiah prophecy and others in the Bible, I doubt Israel will accomplish the desire of some of its present, right-wing politicians who want to drive all Palestinians out of the Gaza Strip and annex it to the State of Israel.

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