Smotrich: We'll act to end IDF control over Israeli civilians in West Bank

Benny Gantz: Bezalel Smotrich's position in Israel's Defense Ministry is a Trojan Horse.

 Finance Minister and Religious Zionist Party leader Bezalel Smotrich leads a faction meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, January 23, 2023. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Finance Minister and Religious Zionist Party leader Bezalel Smotrich leads a faction meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, January 23, 2023.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The Religious Zionist Party will act to ensure that the IDF ends its control over civilian issues relating to settler construction and other matters, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said on Monday as he demanded that the RZP's coalition agreement be upheld.

"The time has come for the residents of Judea and Samaria to stop being second-class citizens living under a military regime and to receive high-quality civil services like all citizens of Israel."

Bezalel Smotrich

"The time has come for the residents of Judea and Samaria to stop being second-class citizens living under a military regime and to receive high-quality civil services like all citizens of Israel," Smotrich said. 

"That is why we intend to act to take all civil matters out of the hands of the army," said Smotrich who heads the RZP.

The transfer of settler civilian affairs from the IDF to Israeli government ministries is considered by some to be an act of annexation.

What can Bezalel Smotrich do in Israel's West Bank?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed in principle that his government would put in place policies that support the application of sovereignty to portions of the West Bank.

 FINANCE MINISTER Bezalel Smotrich arrives for a group picture of the new government at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, last week.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) FINANCE MINISTER Bezalel Smotrich arrives for a group picture of the new government at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, last week. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

That coalition agreement also placed civilian affairs in Area C, for both Israelis and Palestinians, under Smotrich's auspices, including construction approvals and building enforcement issues.

Netanyahu clarified over the weekend that Smotrich's powers were limited, a move that sparked a coalition crisis which has not dissipated. 

Former defense minister MK Benny Gantz, who chairs the National Unity Party in the opposition, charged that Smotrich's position in the Defense Ministry was that of a "Trojan horse."

Smotrich responded minutes later ahead of his Religious Zionist Party's party meeting.

"It is difficult for the elites when someone moves their cheese," he said.

Smotrich added that he expected to receive exactly what he was promised in the Likud and RZP's coalition agreement – control over COGAT and the Civil Administration. He added that he intended to carry out a "revolution" in dismantling illegal Palestinian construction in the West Bank.