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Gallant, Smotrich at odds over evacuation of Judea and Samaria outpost

Senior members of Smotrich’s Religious Zionism Party will reportedly boycott Sunday’s Cabinet meeting in protest.

Givat Eitam near Efrat, September 2007. Photo by Michal Fattal/Flash90.
Givat Eitam near Efrat, September 2007. Photo by Michal Fattal/Flash90.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Friday ordered the evacuation of an outpost in Samaria, setting up a possible showdown with Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who opposed the move.

The site was erected to commemorate Rabbi Haim Druckman, the spiritual leader of the religious Zionism movement, who passed away in late December at age 90.

Smotrich, who also holds the post of minister in the Defense Ministry, has been tasked by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with overseeing the Civil Administration, the ministry’s body responsible for approving construction and handling other bureaucratic matters in Area C of Judea and Samaria.

“Minister Smotrich issued an order [Friday] morning, in accordance with his authority… to stop the evacuation and to take no action until he could hold a discussion on the issue at the start of the week,” said a statement from Smotrich’s office.

“Defense Minister Gallant ordered the evacuation to go ahead despite this, without consulting Minister Smotrich and completely against the coalition agreements that form the basis for the existence of the government,” it added.

In response, Gallant, who is a member of Netanyahu’s Likud Party, said in a statement that “every action on the ground must be conducted in accordance with the law. It must also be fully coordinated and must be taken in accordance with the relevant security situation assessment.”

Meanwhile, Netanyahu appeared to back Gallant’s position.

“The government supports settlement but only when it is done legally and is coordinated in advance with the prime minister and security officials, which was not done in this case. The prime minister will convene a discussion on the issue early next week,” Netanyahu said in a statement released by his office.

Smotrich and Gallant met earlier this month with the head of the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), in a bid to delineate their respective responsibilities.

Ahead of its swearing-in in December, Israel’s government published a list of policy guidelines that includes a vow to promote settlement throughout the country.

“The Jewish people has an exclusive and inalienable right to all parts of the Land of Israel. The government will promote and develop the settlement of all parts of the Land of Israel—in the Galilee, the Negev, the Golan Heights and Judea and Samaria,” the document states.

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