(February 23, 2023 / JNS) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich on Thursday signed a document of understandings regarding the division of responsibility in the Defense Ministry, in which Smotrich also holds the post of minister.
According to a joint statement, the document, which was not made public, outlines respective authorities over the Civil Administration and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, pursuant to the coalition agreements.
Last week, Netanyahu reportedly promised Smotrich that he would immediately transfer to him power over the Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration.
The move came after Smotrich slammed the Civil Administration for ordering the razing of a Jewish-owned olive grove and orchard in Samaria. The destruction of the property was carried out on the authority of Gallant despite orders from Smotrich to freeze the demolition.
As a minister in the Defense Ministry, Smotrich had been tasked by Netanyahu with overseeing the Civil Administration, the ministry body responsible for approving construction and handling other bureaucratic matters in Area C of Judea and Samaria.
Gallant last month also overruled Smotrich’s call to halt the razing of Or Chaim, an outpost commemorating Rabbi Haim Druckman, the spiritual leader of the religious Zionism movement, who died on Dec. 25. That decision caused friction between Gallant and Smotrich, who in response had his Religious Zionism Party boycott the following Cabinet meeting.
Smotrich last week sent a letter to Netanyahu warning him that further delays in transferring to him full authority over the Civil Administration, in accordance with the coalition agreement, could threaten the stability of the government.
“About a month ago, as minister in the Defense Ministry appointed to oversee the Civil Administration, I instructed that the order against Hen Ben-Eliyahu’s [olive grove and orchard] be nullified immediately,” wrote Smotrich. “But much to my surprise, the defense minister brazenly violated the coalition agreement and overruled my decision. Minister Gallant has decided to continue the left-wing policies of former minister Benny Gantz … even though the claims against this orchard were proven in court hearings to be false.”
Smotrich subsequently wrote on Twitter: “Minister Gallant’s denial of the unequivocal coalition agreement and the prime minister’s dragging his feet on the matter are unacceptable and will not be allowed to continue. This is a clause that was clearly central to our agreement and the basis for the existence of a coalition is the existence of coalition agreements.”
Jewish News Syndicate
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