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Finance Minister Smotrich is planning 'mega-dramatic' change in governance of Judea and Samaria

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich visits at the protest tent of bereaved families of soldiers killed during the Iron Swords War outside the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, June 3, 2024. (Photo: Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich told supporters earlier this month that the Israeli government is involved in a secret effort to change the way that Judea and Samaria is governed, according to a New York Times report on Friday.

In the recording, Smotrich, who also serves as minister in the Defense Ministry, reportedly said that the change was profound.

“I’m telling you, it’s mega-dramatic,” Smotrich was quoted as saying. “Such changes change a system’s DNA,” he said, referring to the region internationally known as the West Bank.

According to the NYT, a spokesman for Smotrich's office, Eytan Fold, confirmed that the finance minister had made the speech and that his remarks were not a secret. The recording was made by a member of the far-left group, Peace Now, who attended the event on June 9. 

“My goal – and I think of everyone here – is to first and foremost prevent the establishment of a terror state in the very heart of the Land of Israel,” Smotrich told the event participants, referring to the areas governed by the Palestinian Authority (PA) led by Mahmoud Abbas.

Smotrich explained that his plan was to transfer authority from the military to civilians under his jurisdiction in the Ministry of Defense.

“We created a separate civilian system,” Smotrich said, explaining that the government had allowed the Defense Ministry to stay involved to prevent international criticism.

“It will be easier to swallow in the international and legal context,” he continued. “So that they won’t say that we are doing annexation here.”

According to Smotrich, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “with us full on,” regarding the changes, however, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) rejected Smotrich’s claim.

“The final status of these territories will be determined by the parties in direct negotiations,” the PMO stated about Smotrich’s speech. “This policy has not changed.”

Smotrich has been pushing for several actions against the Palestinian Authority as a consequence of its support for terrorists and their families in a policy referred to as “pay to slay.” According to the policy, the PA pays a salary or a grant to terrorists who have been jailed for acts of terrorism against Israeli targets. It also pays a salary to the families of those who die while performing such acts. 

Ahead of the Security Cabinet meeting scheduled to take place on Sunday night, Smotrich proposed the following actions to penalize the PA: the legalization of four already existing settlements in Judea and Samaria; denial of visa and travel documents to senior PA officials; sanctions against countries that unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state outside of a negotiated solution; and enforcing the rules prohibiting settlement or construction in a nature reserve zone in the Judean Desert.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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