The cabinet decided on Sunday to make the Settlement Affairs Ministry headed by Religious Zionist member Orit Struck an independent ministry. But what exactly will the new ministry (formerly the National Missions Ministry) be responsible for?
According to an announcement issued on Sunday, the ministry will have three branches focusing on: settlement issues; Jewish identity and society; and pre-military preparatory schools (mechina) and national service (sherut leumi).
Struck will also appoint members on her behalf in the planning committee for settlement in Judea and Samaria in the Higher Planning Council of the Civil Administration, the Israel Land Authority, the National Planning and Building Council and the district planning councils in the northern and southern districts.
Religious Zionist Party's battle over the settlements against Yoav Gallant
The decision concerning the new ministry came a week after the government decided to advance approval by the Higher Planning Council of the Civil Administration of more than 7,000 housing units throughout the West Bank. The cabinet decision on Sunday will give Struck the power to affect the approval of new housing units in the West Bank.
The decision also comes as Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir continue to be at odds concerning the transfer of powers over the Civil Administration – which handles civil matters in the West Bank – to Smotrich, and over the Border Police Judea and Samaria Division to Ben-Gvir.
According to Ynet, Gallant also opposed transferring the powers over the Higher Planning Council of the Civil Administration to Struck. All three transfers of power were included in the coalition agreements signed before the government was sworn in.
Struck announced that she intends to accelerate development programs for weakened areas in rural towns, promote decisions and legislation to allow growth in rural towns, advance settlement in Judea and Samaria, legalize outposts and strengthen Jewish-Zionist identity throughout the country.
The minister also said she intends to carry out a comprehensive reform of national service to include professional training, improve conditions and form an educational and moral environment for young women in the service program.
The ministry will also receive control of the Jewish Culture Branch of the Education Ministry and of the Directorate of Jewish Identity from the Religious Services Ministry.
Struck’s role concerning Jewish identity in Israel appears to be similar to the role granted to Noam Party head Avi Maoz.
During efforts to form the current coalition, Maoz signed an agreement saying he would be appointed a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, heading an office called “The Authority for National-Jewish Identity.”
According to the deal, the authority is supposed to handle “the strengthening and the formation of the national-Jewish identity in all public systems.” The authority is budgeted to receive NIS 100 million in its first year.
In January, the cabinet approved the transfer of the Education Ministry unit responsible for external programs to Maoz’s department in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Everything from art and science programs to political and societal programs are offered by external organizations with the approval of this unit.