Israel: ex-security official warns of ‘catastrophe’ if far-right leader made DM

Bezalel Smotrich, leader of Religious Zionism (Ahmad Gharabli - AFP)

Middle East Monitor  /  November 14, 2022

The former head of the Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate and a former top Defence Ministry official, Major General Amos Gilad warned on Saturday of a “serious catastrophe” if the leader of the far-right Religious Zionism Party, Bezalel Smotrich, is appointed to the post of Defence minister.

Gilad said he expected the deterioration of the security situation on the ground, “drawing the entire Israeli army into this friction, and giving a sense of freedom to the rioters,” in reference to Jewish settlers.

Smotrich, he advised, should not be given the post, citing the minister’s far- right ideology as well as his past actions.

“This man was arrested during activities to set fire to the Ayalon Highway, or other terror attacks,” Gilad said, referring to Smortich’s arrest in 2005, during protests against Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

At the time, Smortich was held by the Shin Bet security service for three weeks, during which he refused to cooperate with the investigation.

“Smotrich can’t deny himself, he is a man with a backbone. He can’t deny the circles he came from. If he upsets the delicate balance in Samaria [northern occupied West Bank], it will upset relations with countries in the region. This is exactly what [Hamas’ Gaza leader] Yahya Sinwar wants,” Gilad warned.

Israeli media outlets reported that incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is weighing several candidates for the post of Defence minister, including Smotrich, Shas leader Aryeh Deri and Likud MK Yoav Gallant.