Religious Zionism Party head and incoming Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday in which he accuses the U.S. media of vilifying him and vows that the next government will uphold the country’s democratic character.
“The U.S. media has vilified me and the traditionalist bloc to which I belong since our success in Israel’s November elections. They say I am a right-wing extremist and that our bloc will usher in a ‘halachic state’ in which Jewish law governs,” Smotrich began, adding: “In reality, we seek to strengthen every citizen’s freedoms and the country’s democratic institutions, bringing Israel more closely in line with the liberal American model.
“Israel is a Jewish and democratic state and will remain so,” he continued. “After five elections in less than five years and suffering the rule of a weak and fractious coalition dependent on a radical Islamist party’s backing for a year and a half, the country has finally formed a popular and stable government. Our bloc will strengthen Israel in the face of radical Islam and its terror proxies, open the country up economically, and usher in growth and prosperity for the benefit of all citizens.”
In his piece, headlined “Israel’s New Government Isn’t What You’ve Heard,” Smotrich emphasized that on matters of religion and state, “the new government will never seek to impose anything on a citizen that goes against his or her beliefs….Contrary to some American reporting, we seek to protect all citizens from coercion that would violate their conscience—nothing more.”
Smotrich also contended that the American and other media have mischaracterized the reforms he will pursue in his secondary role as a minister in the Defense Ministry with responsibility for various civil issues in Judea and Samaria.
“Whatever one’s opinion on ending the Israeli-Arab conflict, the current situation in these regions, in which a feckless military government lacks the civil-service orientation required for governing civil life, is unsustainable. The army needs to deal with security and leave governing to a civil system capable of providing efficient service and protecting individual rights,” he wrote.
“Our reforms are aimed at developing the area’s infrastructure, employment and economy for the benefit of all. This doesn’t entail changing the political or legal status of the area. If the Palestinian Authority decides to dedicate some of its time and energy to its citizens’ welfare rather than demonizing Jews and funding the murder of Israelis, it would find me a full partner in that endeavor,” he continued.
Smotrich also included a link to JNS’s reporting on a secret document composed by the European Union’s mission in eastern Jerusalem that shows Brussels is actively working with and on behalf of the P.A. to take over Area C of Judea and Samaria, with the overall objective of integrating the region with Areas A and B.
He furthermore noted that Israel’s justice system “needs urgent reform to restore democratic balance, individual rights and public trust. In the U.S., elected politicians appoint federal judges, including Supreme Court justices, making the bench at least indirectly responsive to the people. In Israel, sitting Supreme Court justices have veto power over new appointments to the court.
“Our emphasis on judicial reform is meant to bring Israel closer to the American political model with some limited checks to ensure the judicial system respects the law. We seek to appoint judges in Israel in a process similar to America’s; to define the attorney general’s scope of authority and relation to elected representatives in a manner similar to what’s set down in America; to develop effective oversight mechanisms for law enforcement to ensure they protect basic rights; and to restore the Knesset’s authority to define the fundamental values of the state and its emerging constitution,” Smotrich wrote.
“All Americans should appreciate the wisdom and justice in these plans. They should shed their preconceptions and unite to support the resurgence of accountable government, prosperity, individual rights, and democracy in the Jewish homeland,” he concluded.