Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich with PM Netanyahu
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich with PM NetanyahuYonatan Sindel/Flash90

Senior jurists within the security establishment are warning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against moving forward with his plans to transfer authority from the Civil Administration and the Coordination of Government Operations in the Territories (COGAT) to Finance Minister and Minister within the Defense Ministry Bezalel Smotrich, Haaretz reports.

According to the report, chief military prosecutor Yifat Tomer Yerushalmi and the legal adviser to the defense establishment Itai Ofir claim that the transfer of powers may be perceived by international bodies, including the International Court of Justice in The Hague, as de facto annexation.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu decided in favor of transferring authority over the management of civilian life in Judea and Samaria to Minister Smotrich, despite the opposition of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, according to a report on Channel 12 News.

The debate over the issue apparently reached a climax in a heated meeting in which Netanyahu, Gallant, Smotrich, Justice Minister Yariv Levin, and other senior officials participated.

During the course of the debate, Gallant said: "I am the Minister of Defense and there cannot be two commanders in a single army." Ministers Smotrich and Levin responded that: "These are signed coalition agreements." Ultimately, Prime Minister Netanyahu intervened, saying that there was logic to Smotrich's claim and ruling that the coalition agreement must be respected.

According to the agreement, authority over military matters and illegal construction by both Jews and Palestinian Arabs will remain with COGAT. Since these are actions with security and policy implications, all decisions will be made subject to the Prime Minister's oversight.