Middle East Monitor / August 10, 2023
Bezalel Smotrich’s Jewish settlement plan is to annex the West Bank, increase settlements and bring an end to the Palestinian Authority. He works silently, away from the cameras and the Knesset podium. He is a professional politician who knows how to swim against the tide.
Smotrich, who heads the Religious Zionist Party, was born in 1980 in an illegal Jewish settlement in the occupied Syrian Golan. His father is Haim Yeruham, the former rabbi of the Kiryat Arba yeshiva, which was one of the strongholds of the terrorist Kach movement. Smotrich grew up in the illegal Beit El settlement, and went to study at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva, from which leaders of the Jewish settler right graduated. It is considered the greenhouse of extremism from which a large number of students who turned into senior officers in the occupation army graduated. There are those who also became senior officers in the Israeli intelligence services, and well-known journalists in major media outlets.
Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper asked him about his plan regarding the Gaza Strip, and he said: “I will re-occupy Gaza, disarm all the armed forces there, and I will open its doors to mass immigration. This can definitely be a regional action with other countries and could work with Europe.”
The defiant right
The views adopted by the extreme right is to undermine the Palestinian Authority, while the Knesset plans to discuss several steps to prevent the collapse of the PA. One of the steps being discussed is establishing an industrial zone near Hebron, as well as a financial rescue plan to reduce the chances of the PA collapsing by granting it soft loans, scheduling Palestinian debts, offering fuel exemptions and setting a date for transferring Palestinian tax revenues. They also discuss increasing working hours at Al-Karama (Allenby) crossing and returning VIP visitors’ permits to PA officials.
However, the response to these steps came from the Religious Zionism Party, as Smotrich said he would not agree to concessions for the PA and that no money would be transferred to it. Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said that he will stand against the shameful decision to grant the PA privileges. Such obstacles prevent achieving political movement in terms of negotiations at the present time and will even accelerate the occupation of the West Bank and its annexation, and this is what looms on the horizon.
Contrary to the turbulent environment inhabited by the poles of extremism in Israel, which is not monitored globally, there is a clear indication that the extreme and abnormal behaviour, which goes against world order, is not being revealed. The world is avoiding addressing it and therefore, no attention is paid to it and no punishments brought against it.
Despite the secrecy of the Religious Zionism Party’s plans, the party that makes up Netanyahu’s government today, some details have been leaked. Yedioth Ahronoth sometimes discloses something in this regard, as Netanyahu’s government is fleeing forward as much as possible, and is not looking back. Despite what is happening inside the occupying country, such as the continuation of demonstrations condemning the coalition government, soldiers deserting service, and the brain drain, Netanyahu still does not see this as a problem worthy of being addressed.
The Aqaba and Sharm al-Sheikh agreement, which stipulated the provision of facilities to the PA, went disregarded. The scenario at the moment is the annexation of the West Bank, and herein lies the danger of the religiously extremist government in Israel. As for what the Israeli security level said about how serious the situation in the West Bank is, it means nothing to the extremist settlers. However, the question remains: Where does all the support come from?
We are currently facing the literal application of biblical texts: “Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” (Samuel 15:3)
Just within the past few years, we witnessed an escalation in the extent of the killing and destruction that befell the Palestinian people by settler gangs, the events in the village of Duma located on the outskirts of Nablus, the killing young Abu Khdeir, and the invasion and besieging of Jenin and Balata camp. All of this is a prelude to the deportation of the Palestinian people and the elimination of their dream of living on their land.
Perhaps one day we will wake up suddenly and without warning to discover that the West Bank has fallen into the grip of the two ministers who represent the most extreme level of extremism, Smotrich and Ben-Gvir. Meanwhile, the whole world is busy with the Ukraine war, the grain crisis, the coup in Niger and other crises.
Fathi Hazem is a retired colonel in the Palestinian Authority National Security Forces