Israeli Finance Minister and Religious Zionist Party chairman MK Bezalel Smotrich refused on Monday to call settler rampages in Palestinian towns "terror," arguing in a press conference ahead of his party's weekly meeting that terrorism was a fight against an "enemy" who wants to "remove us from the land," while settlers were "brothers," and therefore their violence should be treated as civil crime.
The finance minister added that National Missions Minister Orit Struck had made a mistake and apologized for comparing the heads of Israel's security establishment to the mercenary Wagner group, and criticized "insignificant politicians" who want to do a "[media] round at her expense."
Asked about a call by National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir (Otzma Yehudit) for Israelis to "rush to the hilltops" in the West Bank, which seemingly encouraged Israeli citizens to break the law, Smotrich responded that he fully supported the settlement enterprise but that it should be done in an "organized and legal" manner. However, who is also a minister within the defense ministry and controls civil matters in the West Bank, was not willing to say whether he would order the evacuation of settlements set up illegally.
Ben-Gvir in comments to the press ahead of his party's weekly meeting accused the Israeli security system of administering justice selectively.
"All of their eyes are on the settlers, the youth, the hilltops of Judea and Samaria, to enforce the law again and again and again in Judea and Samaria, but at the same time tens of thousands of illegal houses in the Negev and Galilee do not interest them.
"I am against breaking the law, I think that there needs to be settlers everywhere in Judea and Samaria, but there will not be one law for settlers and another for the Golan Heights, Rahat and the protestors on Ayalon [highway]," Ben-Gvir said, the latter referring to protestors against the government's judicial reforms.
Yair Lapid criticized Ben-Gvir and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Opposition leader MK Yair Lapid criticized Ben-Gvir and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of his Yesh Atid party's weekly meeting, after it became official on Monday that Israel Police Commissioner Koby Shabtai would not be granted a fourth year in the position.
"A defendant in the middle of a trial [Netanyahu] or a convicted terrorist [Ben-Gvir], one of them will appoint the next commissioner. That is not sane. It is not a reasonable state of affairs," Lapid said.
Lapid accused the government of attempting to block the Supreme Court's ability to evaluate the reasonability of its decisions exactly for cases like this – so that the government can make unworthy and corrupt appointments to key positions.
"If they cancel the reasonableness doctrine – first they will appoint [Shas chairman MK Aryeh} Deri, another convicted criminal, contrary to the Supreme Court's ruling, and then we will see here only the appointments of confidantes, only fixed tenders. Corruption will overrun the State of Israel. Honest citizens will have no one to turn to, no one to defend them," Lapid charged.
Decision to push forward with the judicial reform
National Unity chairman MK Benny Gantz also attacked the government and the prime minister their decision to push forward with the judicial reform.
"It is not too late to do the right thing. Stop the one-sided legislation, appoint a representative to the Judicial Selection Committee as was agreed, and resume talks at the President's Residence," Gantz said, adding that in any future government, he forms, he will cancel the judicial reform bills immediately.
Asked about IDF reservists threatening to cease volunteering for reserve duty due to the reforms, Gantz and Lapid gave different answers. While Gantz said that involving the IDF in the political debate was off-limits and crossed a line, Lapid said that he understood people who say that they will not serve in a military of an undemocratic country.
In the Knesset plenum a few hours later on Monday, Gantz criticized a plan by the government to pass a bill that would broaden the exemption of haredi citizens from service in the IDF.
"There is no way half the people will serve the other half. Without having everyone serve in one way or another – at the end of the day, no one will serve," Gantz said.
"Your attempt to strengthen and whitewash systemic draft evasion will in the long-term cause the collapse of the People's Army model, and no less severe, will lead to damage to Israel's military superiority in the region," Gantz said.