RZP minister: West Bank control is pillar of our presence in government

“Netanyahu must make order,” National Missions Minister Orit Struck told KAN News prior to the cabinet meeting on Sunday.

 BEZALEL SMOTRICH and Orit Struck visit Gush Etzion in October, days before the election (photo credit: GERSHON ELINSON/FLASH90)
BEZALEL SMOTRICH and Orit Struck visit Gush Etzion in October, days before the election
(photo credit: GERSHON ELINSON/FLASH90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must uphold his coalition deal with the Religious Zionist Party granting it control of civilian life in Area C of the West Bank, the party warned on Sunday morning as it boycotted Sunday’s government meeting.

Netanyahu must make order,” National Missions Minister Orit Struck told KAN News prior to the cabinet meeting on Sunday.

“The basic pillar of our presence in the government is our ability to carry out our policies with respect to civilian life in Judea and Samaria [Area C of the West Bank].

“This is what we demanded. This is what we received, this what Netanyahu signed off on and this is what needs to be carried out,” Struck explained.

“What was promised us has to be carried out,” she said.

 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen in a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on January 22, 2023 (credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen in a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on January 22, 2023 (credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)

Minister Struck: RZP compromised on issues during coalition negotiations

The coalition deal took two months to work out because the RZP understood that it could not receive everything it wanted, explained Struck. There were issues it decided to compromise on and as a result, it took them off the table.

But the principled that it stood fast to with the negotiations and which were granted to it, must be upheld, she said. 

This includes total oversight with respect to settler building and enforcement actions with regard to illegal Jewish and Palestinian buildings in Area C, she explained.

Under the coalition agreement, Smotrich was given control of the Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). The IDF’s Civil Administration division, which is a branch of that office, has enforcement power in building issues in Area C of the West Bank. It is also the authority that approves construction for both Israelis and Palestinians.   

She spoke out after Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant of his Likud party clarified that they were in charge of civilian life in Area C, when it came to the demolition of settler homes in the West Bank.

Struck told KAN that the coalition deal was very clear, it gave the RZP a ministerial position in the Defense Ministry, which is held by party head Bezalel Smotrich, who is also the finance minister.

Smotrich, in his position as a minister in the Defense Ministry, is tasked with control of COGAT and the Civil Administration with respect to Area C, she said. 

“This division of authority is written as clearly as possible, that the minister will have full responsibility over COGAT, this thing has not happened,” Struck said. 

“So we are stopping here,” she said, as she explained why the party had boycotted the weekly government meeting. But she stopped short of directly threatening to leave the coalition.

Coalition fights among itself over the newly-built illegal outpost

The matter came to a head after right-wing activists illegally built an outpost in the Samaria region of the West Bank, placing five small modular homes on the site overnight.

Smotrich ordered COGAT not to move against the outpost until he had time to discuss the matter with him on Sunday.

Gallant ignored that directive and ordered the Civil Administration, together with the Border police to demolish the outpost. Gallant has since prevented activists from reaching the site.

Netanyahu backed Gallant stating that the law must be observed. 

Struck said that the government’s priority should be the removal of all illegal Palestinian building in Area C of the West Bank, which she said is part of a blatant Palestinian Authority plan to seize control of Area C, which is now under IDF military and civilian control and is not within the sovereign boundaries of Israel.

The PA has been blunt about its belief that Area C should be part of the final borders of its state. 

 THE ILLEGAL Khan Al Ahmar Bedouin settlement alongside Route 1 is the poster child for the blind eye that our leadership has chosen to turn to the matter of illegal new construction in Area C, says the writer.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) THE ILLEGAL Khan Al Ahmar Bedouin settlement alongside Route 1 is the poster child for the blind eye that our leadership has chosen to turn to the matter of illegal new construction in Area C, says the writer. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

RZP claims inequity in advancement of Area C buildings

The RZP is pushing that this position does not address the inequity when it comes to the advancement of building projects in Area C, which favors Jewish ones over Palestinian ones.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said that if Netanyahu wants to uphold building laws in Area C, then he should do it equally for Jews and Palestinians.

In a statement to the media prior to the government meeting he said that he planned to demand the immediate evacuation of the illegal Bedouin herding village of Khan al-Ahmar that is located just below the Kfar Adumim settlement.

Right-wing politicians and activists has sought to sway the government to dismantle that village of huts and tents since 2009.