Photo Credit: Chaim Goldberg/FLASH90
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant at a joint press conference in Jerusalem, December 26, 2023.

There’s a lot of theatrics in the NY Times’ Friday report (Israeli Official Describes Secret Government Bid to Cement Control of West Bank), including the hushed tones in describing Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s June 9 half-hour speech that was secretly recorded by a Peace Now activist, and then the minister’s spokesman, an Israeli American named Eytan Fuld (they misspelled his last name), went and ruined the drama by confirming Smotrich had given the speech and it wasn’t a secret.

On Rosh Hashanah 2022, The Jewish Press picked the organization co-founded by Smotrich, Regavim, as “man of the year,” because it was “the most grownup rightwing NGO in the room.” I wrote back then that “Regavim brings to the table everything Ben Gvir does not: consistent, detailed, sober hard work in research, legal action, political advocacy, and communication.”


A mere two and a half years later, the Times was finally able to recognize our perception, as Smotrich explained his methodical, well-thought-out, persistent plan to secure Jewish life in Judea and Samaria and prevent the chance of establishing a Palestinian State.

In his open, totally not secretive speech, Smotrich “outlined a carefully orchestrated program to take authority over the West Bank out of the hands of the Israeli military and turn it over to civilians working for Mr. Smotrich in the defense ministry. Parts of the plan have already been incrementally introduced over the past 18 months, and some authorities have already been transferred to civilians,” the Times reported.

Naturally, the Times report was dripping poisonous descriptions of Smotrich as “far right,” which means he does not think like them. With more and more Western countries being taken over by “far right” parties, should one be concerned with the position of the Earth’s axis?

The Jewish settlement of Eli, January 17, 2021. / Sraya Diamant/Flash90


It was certainly a coup of sorts, as those of us who don’t rely on the Times have known since January 2023. Back then, Smotrich was able to exact from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu two ministerial positions: one as finance minister, the other as adjunct minister in the defense ministry, in charge of Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).

Today, 18 months after those two events, it can be safely said that acquiring the post of finance minister was a secondary, camouflage move if you will, to the real thing: Smotrich taking over control of civilian life in Area C, namely the lives of more than half a million Jews who until January 2023 had been powerless vassals of tyrannical IDF Central Command Generals who attacked the settlement enterprise with varying levels of vigor and tartness, depending on which branch of Hashomer Hatzair they were affiliated with.

Smotrich’s tenure in the defense ministry was rife with provocation and confrontation on the part of DM Yoav Gallant, who never hesitated to side with the leftist, anti-settlement brass against the Jews, forgetting that he had been elected by Likud voters, 99% of whom are settlement advocates. Over the past 18 months, every time Smotrich had been able to make a deep, calculated change in the operation of COGAT, Gallant and his IDF brass retaliated against Jewish settlers, to the point of exposing them to Arab death threats. Gallant also earned the dubious distinction of throwing more Jewish activists into administrative detention, without charges, never mind a legal trial.

But Smotrich has been able to survive those bouts of fascistic militarism of the left’s old guard through the application of laws, in a way that could not be quickly overturned by a leftist government, should one take over, God forbid.

The Times interviewed attorney Talia Sasson, possibly the most dedicated enemy of Jewish life in the liberated territories, who was unleashed by PM Ariel Sharon to erase decades of mapped parameters, a heartless expression of pure hatred that was then followed by two decades of Supreme Court indefatigable nitpicking that wound up demolishing hundreds of Jewish homes and harming countless Jewish communities.

It was such a pleasure to read Sasson’s hound’s baying at the undoing of her cruelty, telling the Times that Smotrich’s speech “fundamentally undermines the longstanding argument of the state of Israel that the settlements are legal because they are temporary.”

But this argument is wrong, and the drive to maintain an air of temporary residency regarding communities that have been on the ground since 1974 cannot possibly be accepted any longer by both pro- and anti-settlement thinkers. Today, both Israelis and PA Arabs know there will not be a two-state solution, no matter how many times President Joe Biden and Sec. State Antony Blinken repeated their support for it. Or, as Smotrich put it in his secret speech that was open even to Peace Now activists with a smartphone: “Fifteen years ago, I was one of those running on the hills, erecting tents,” and now, “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.”

Here’s a list of the changes Smotrich has introduced since taking over COGAT:

  • Increased civilian authority over settlement development planning and legal oversight in the settlements.
  • Removed the Judea and Samaria regional commander’s power to veto settlement construction proposals.
  • Allocated approximately $270 million from Israel’s defense budget for settlement security in 2024-2025.
  • Advanced plans to create a specialized unit aimed at accelerating the demolition of unauthorized PA Arab structures in Area C.

And so, if you are a friend of Jewish life in Judea and Samaria, you must:

  1. Support PM Netanyahu’s continued coalition rule until its term expires in November 2025.
  2. Vote for Donald Trump on November 5, 2024.

Neither choice is necessarily a happy one, but politics ain’t about being happy. It’s about making the best possible choices for the people we love.

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