Israel: Netanyahu grants far-right allies control of West Bank Civil Administration
Israel’s likely next prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has agreed to grant his far-right allies authority over the COGAT Civil Administration which oversees construction, infrastructure and security in the occupied West Bank.
Netanyahu’s Likud party and the extreme-right Religious Zionism Party, led by Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, have been jostling over control of key government portfolios as part of efforts to build a coalition after the November 1 election.
The Religious Zionism Party reportedly traded their ambitions of holding the defence ministry in exchange for control of COGAT, which is responsible for settlement and construction in an area where up to 300,000 Palestinians live known as "Area C," Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Thursday.
This designation is likely to lead to the escalation of efforts to systematically expel Palestinians from their land and a rise in illegal Israeli settlements in occupied territories.
"The Administration’s inspection department is responsible for detecting illegal construction and is the one that, among other things, cracks down on illegal outposts, for which Smotrich and his party have expressed support many times," Haaretz said.
Netanyahu has also handed the Religious Zionism Party control of the Finance Ministry for two years and the Interior and Transport Ministry after that. These departments are likely to be used by the far-right to bolster funds for illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The Religious Zionism party - an alliance put together from several smaller lists - clinched 14 seats in the November elections, more than any religious-nationalist party in the history of the state.
Netanyahu, ousted in 2021, relied on the growing extreme-right block to secure his comeback as prime minister. Hence, a number of members are likely to secure key ministerial positions as Israel’s new coalition materialises over the next few days.
This has not prevented internal infighting, however, with Smotrich accusing Netanyahu of trying to "humiliate and sideline" his faction.
The occupied West Bank has been under Israeli military rule for 55 years.
Palestinians are routinely subjected to forced expulsions from their homes and communities are denied access to basic amenities such as schools and reliable water systems.
"Area C," which is under full Israeli control, covers 60 percent of the occupied territory. The Palestinian Authority controls Area A, while Area B is under Palestinian civil control and Israeli security control.
Ever since the 1993 Oslo Accords which were expected to lead to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state, Israel has refused to end settlement activity and deliberately thwarted efforts for a lasting settlement in the occupied West Bank.