Bezalel Smotrich, leader of The Religious Zionist Party, Minister of Finance, and the Minister responsible for civil affairs in the occupied territories within the Ministry of Defense, represents the antithesis of Judaism, despite his claims to be its authentic voice. Tragically, he is attempting to poison the State of Israel with racism and zealotry in the name of Judaism instead of infusing it with the Jewish spirit of the Declaration of Independence.
Smotrich initially “liked” a post by Davidi Ben Zion (Deputy Head of the Samaria Council) saying: “The village of Huwara should be wiped out today... there is no room for mercy.” This followed the horrific events on February 26, that commenced with the terrorist murder of two Israeli brothers, Hillel and Yagel Yaniv z”l, from the settlement Har Bracha, and ended with a pogrom launched in retaliation, in which settlers burned down some 35 homes and 100 cars, damaging more.
Davidi had the sense to delete his post, but Smotrich again reiterated his support for “wiping out” Huwara at The Marker conference three days later. He subsequently claimed that his intention was that it should be the State of Israel that will do the “wiping out” of the village, and not individual vigilantes that take the law into their own hands.
However, he still refused to call the actions of the settlers that committed the pogrom “terrorism,” emphasizing that despite the severity of their actions they were “erring Jews.” Smotrich explained: “… terrorism means a people who intend to destroy me and are using terrorism”, clearly including the entire Palestinian nation in his violent plan.
A few hours later he issued further clarification, saying that he didn’t mean “wiping out” the village at all, but only that a heavy price should be extracted via targeted military action against terrorists and their supporters in the village. Three days later [March 4] he acknowledged that maybe he shouldn’t have used that language, attributing it to being “emotionally overcome.”
Facing global and Israeli outrage, Smotrich is trying to whitewash his tracks by making ludicrous claims that he meant something entirely different than what he said, but clearly his explicit statements defy these attempts.
It is difficult to think of a more antithetical view to the Judaism of the Prophets which The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel (Declaration of Independence) cites as a source of inspiration for Israel: “The State of Israel will be based on the foundations of liberty, justice and peace in the light of the vision of the prophets of Israel.“
“The State of Israel will be based on the foundations of liberty, justice and peace in the light of the vision of the prophets of Israel.“Declaration of Independence
Judaism allows and in fact commands us to choose the path we will follow as individuals and as a Jewish and democratic state. Smotrich and his cohorts want a different kind of Judaism, and expect Israel to act in the spirit of the verse “I, the Lord your God, am a zealot God; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me” (Exodus 20:4)
However, the Torah itself presents an opposite model, which the Declaration of Independence justifiably chose: “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin”. (Deuteronomy 24:16)
Smotrich's plan to deal with the Arabs, LGBT community
ALREADY BACK in 2017 Smotrich presented his plan for resolving the Jewish/Arab conflict, and now that he is in the government, he intends to implement it. His plan was based on denying Palestinian independence and presenting three options to Palestinians, including Israeli Arabs: 1. to live as “residents” (explaining that “according to the Halacha, they should always be a little inferior”); 2. to leave the country; 3. if they choose to refuse these two options, “the IDF will know how to deal with them.”
When asked if his intention was also to kill families, women and children, Smotrich answered, “In war as in war.” He called his plan The Decisive Plan. Although I shudder to think about it, it is difficult to avoid the similarity between this title – although not in its detail – and another title given to a plan which is well known to the Jewish people: The Final Solution.
At the time, he explained that the conceptual basis for the plan is the Book of Joshua. According to Smotrich, the midrash tells us that Joshua sent three letters to the inhabitants of the land, outlining three conditions corresponding to the ones he currently suggests.
Quoting Maimonides to illustrate his points, he explained that if those non-Jews do not flee, restrictions must be imposed on them “so that they will be despised and humiliated, and will not raise their heads up against the Jewish People”, and if they oppose this “no soul will be allowed to survive from amongst them!”
In October 2021, Smotrich caused a stir in the Knesset, when he responded to interjections by MKs from the Arab parties (the Joint List and Ra’am) with the words “You are here by mistake, because Ben-Gurion did not finish the job and did not throw you out in 1948”.
“You are here by mistake, because Ben-Gurion did not finish the job and did not throw you out in 1948.”Bezalel Smotrich
This is just one outrageous and blood-curdling example of the Jewish world of Smotrich and his cohorts. In the Torah state that they seek to establish, those who publicly act in breach of the Shabbat laws may possibly be stoned to death, and the fate of the LGBT community will be doomed. Women in Israel will not enjoy equality either, if Smotrich is allowed to realize his vision.
Back in 2018 he expressed strong opposition to the inclusion of women in combat positions in the IDF, stating that “at the end of the day, there are professions and roles in life that are suitable for men, and there are professions that are suitable for women – that is how God created the world, and that is what is best for the world”.
Before we mistakenly think that Smotrich is indeed the authentic representative of the spirit of Judaism, we must remember Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation. When Abraham heard of God’s intention to destroy Sodom due to their grave sins, he did not hesitate for a moment to confront God, paving a Jewish path based on the values of justice and rule-of-law as supreme guiding principles:
“Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18:25)
Smotrich and his partners know that an essential step in the implementation of their Jewish vision which includes the legitimization of the erasure of villages like Huwara, would initially require the neutralization of the independent legal system in Israel. Therefore, that is what they are now passionately pursuing.
Smotrich wants us to believe that he represents the authentic model for Judaism. His manipulative choice of name for his party “The Religious Zionist Party” purports to lead Israel as it strives to merge Judaism and democracy. There is no model more abhorrent and further from the desired spirit of Judaism, on which the Declaration of Independence is based. Abraham our father, who stood for justice and the rule-of-law, is a far worthier Jewish role model for us.
The writer is CEO of Hiddush - for Religious Freedom and Equality.