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Draft Israeli coalition agreement includes dramatic changes regarding Judea and Samaria

Religious Zionism Party chairman Bezalel Smotrich is set to receive powers reserved in the past for the defense minister, including authority to appoint the next Civil Administration head.

Religious Zionism Party head Bezalel Smotrich in Jerusalem, Nov. 30, 2022. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Religious Zionism Party head Bezalel Smotrich in Jerusalem, Nov. 30, 2022. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

A draft version of the coalition agreement between the Likud and the Religious Zionism Party, headed by Bezalel Smotrich, includes dramatic changes in government power structures relating to civilian and military activities in Judea and Samaria, Hebrew media reported on Monday.

According to Ynet, Defense Minister-designate Yoav Gallant will not have the authority to appointment the next IDF Civil Administration head and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), with these powers going instead to Smotrich or a minister of his choosing, who will receive the new position of “minister within the Defense Ministry.”

The incoming defense minister will also lose traditional powers regarding decisions on construction permits for Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and the ability to make legal decisions on behalf of the state in response to petitions by Palestinians and left-wing activists to the Israeli High Court over land disputes in Area C of Judea and Samaria.

A clause in the agreement states that the chairperson’s position in Defense Ministry’s Legal Advisor Branch will receive seven new legal council positions, which will be allocated to the Settlement Administration, a new unit that will be placed under Smotrich’s control, the report added.

“This clause, in effect, enables Smotrich to almost fully neutralize the Civil Administration’s legal advisers,” the report stated. It added that the background to the clause lies in ongoing legal disputes between Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria and the Civil Administration’s legal adviser, who has been accused of being contrarian regarding the Judea and Samaria Council, and unwilling to promote its initiatives regarding construction initiatives and other types of programs.

Under the new arrangement, Smotrich will be able to rely on his own legal advisers in forming a legal opinion on Israeli building programs in Judea and Samaria.

An additional clause stresses that all of the powers described above will be exercised in coordination and in agreement with the prime minister.

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