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Israeli president says no plans to expel Palestinians from Gaza after ministers’ comments cause uproar

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Israeli President Isaac Herzog confirmed Sunday that Israel has no plans to expel Palestinians from Gaza, days after members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government suggested that Palestinians should resettle elsewhere.

Herzog made the comments during a Sunday morning appearance on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ with host Kristen Welker. Far-right Israeli ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir have both suggested in recent days that Israel should encourage a large portion of Palestinians to relocate out of Gaza.

‘I’m saying outright, officially and unequivocally, this is not the Israeli position,’ Herzog said when asked about the controversy. ‘A minister can say whatever he wants. I may not like it, but this is Israeli politics.’

The U.S. State Department aggressively condemned any plans to relocate Palestinians in a statement after the comments from the ministers.

‘The United States rejects recent statements from Israeli Ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir advocating for the resettlement of Palestinians outside of Gaza. This rhetoric is inflammatory and irresponsible,’ the department wrote last week.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Herzog’s interview.

Netanyahu has vowed that the war in Gaza will last ‘many more months,’ and he has indicated that Israel will play a major security role in the region for a significant time after the conflict. He has not, however, indicated that he would attempt to relocate Palestinians.

Israel and Hamas are in negotiations for a new hostage exchange. The U.S., Qatar and Egypt are also involved in the talks.

Qatar has said that negotiations hit a wall last week after top Hamas commander Saleh al-Arouri was killed in an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, last week. While Israel has denied responsibility for the attack, Hamas negotiators have become more withdrawn.

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