Israel's Netanyahu 'supports West Bank power transfer to extreme-right Smotrich'
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday announced his support for transferring responsibility for civilian affairs in the occupied West Bank to the head of the extreme-right Religious Zionism bloc, Bezalel Smotrich.
Smotrich, who holds the finance portfolio in Netanyahu's far-right government, will have the power to direct that Palestinian homes in Israeli-administered Area C, which makes up the majority of the West Bank, be destroyed.
A "stormy" meeting took place on Wednesday in which Netanyahu, Smotrich, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant and Justice Minister Yariv Levin were present, Israeli public broadcaster Kan reported.
Smotrich and Gallant had reportedly been in disagreement over authority in the Civil Administration, the Israeli defence ministry body that manages the West Bank.
Netanyahu sided with Smotrich on granting him authority over civilian affairs within the administration, according to the report. Gallant is set to retain control over security powers.
Gallant was cited as saying the transfer of powers to Smotrich means Israel will have two military commanders.
High-level figures within the army have warned Netanyahu's decision will have long-term legal and security consequences.
"If a military confrontation breaks out, who will be responsible for managing it: Gallant or Smotrich?" former Israeli prime minister and current opposition leader Yair Lapid said in an interview with official radio on Thursday.
Benny Gantz, the country's previous defence minister, said in a tweet that "Netanyahu is dismantling the [Israeli army] into pieces due to his political motivations, and directly undermining the unity of command", news website The Times of Israel reported.
Netanyahu is in charge of an extremist coalition government widely viewed as the most far-right administration in Israel's history.
On Thursday, the Israeli military killed at least nine Palestinians during a raid on the Jenin refugee camp.
This brought the total number of Palestinians killed by Israel in the occupied West Bank this year to 29.
"Israel's raid on Jenin is another in a long run of brutal Israeli military raids," Palestinian ambassador to the UK Husam Zomlot told The New Arab.
"Israel is unhinged and the Palestinian people are in need of protection from a country that for too long has been able to get away with innumerable transgressions of international law and international humanitarian law without any consequences."