Israel's Smotrich plans to shift West Bank occupation to Israeli settler control

Israel's Smotrich plans to shift West Bank occupation to Israeli settler control
Israel's occupation of the West Bank has been ongoing since it took control of the territory from Jordan in 1967.
3 min read
22 June, 2024
Smotrich said that the changes he was making would change the system of governance in the occupied West Bank [Getty]

Israel's far-right finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, is attempting to prevent the occupied West Bank from becoming part of an independent Palestinian State, according to a speech he made to Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

Smotrich announced in his 9 June speech that he is implementing a programme that was turning over the military administration of the occupied West Bank to administrators in the Defence Ministry.

Smotrich told the settlers that the changes he's making to the administration of the West Bank are "mega-dramatic" and that "such changes change a system's DNA", according to a report from the New York Times.

According to reports, he said "a separate civilian system" was created, and to avoid international scrutiny, the government has allowed the Defense ministry to stay involved in the process.

Israel's occupation of the West Bank, which has been ongoing since 1967, has seen a military governor running a military administration of West Bank affairs.

Under the Israeli Supreme Court and international law the territory is under an occupation.

However, Smotrich's changes, which have slowly been implemented since the beginning of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition, have seen authorities transferred over from military oversight to civilian oversight.

This includes the process of settlement expansion, land expropriation and road building in the West Bank which is now overseen by civilians working under Smotrich in the Defence ministry.

As well as being Finance Minister, Smotrich is also a minister in the Defence Ministry and has control over the administration of the occupied West Bank.

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"My goal - and I think of everyone here - is to first and foremost prevent the establishment of a terror state in the very heard of the land of Israel," Smotrich said during the speech.

He added that Netanyahu was on board with the plans he is implementing, which would see much more civilian oversight under the guise of military oversight, prompting a de-facto annexation.

The minister has long been opposed to Palestinian statehood, pushing instead for Israel to annex Palestinian areas. 

Smotrich has previously aired his intentions as minister to extend control over the occupied West Bank, approving the construction of new settlements in the territory, deemed illegal under international law, and attaining funds for security protection for settlements.

In July 2023, Smotrich said that he would seek to attain the authority to be able to demolish Palestinian buildings in zones A and B under the pretext of the buildings being deemed national security threats.

Zones A and B are under the civil control of the Palestinian Authority as stipulated under the Oslo accords.

For Palestinians, the occupied West Bank is a key part of the future make up of any Palestinian state, as well as Gaza and East Jerusalem which Palestinians seek as their capital.