Bezalel Smotrich
Bezalel SmotrichOren Ben Hakoon/Flash 90

The New York Times on Friday published a transcript of a recording of Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, in which he is heard telling residents of Judea and Samaria that the Israeli government is engaged in a stealthy effort to irreversibly change the way the territory is governed without being accused of formally annexing it.

The comments were made by Smotrich during a gathering in Judea and Samaria on June 9. He can be heard saying that the goal of the plan was to prevent Judea and Samaria from becoming part of a Palestinian state.

“I’m telling you, it’s mega-dramatic,” Smotrich told those present, according to The New York Times. “Such changes change a system’s DNA.”

In the comments, Smotrich outlined a carefully orchestrated program to take authority over Judea and Samaria out of the hands of the IDF and turn it over to civilians working in the Defense Ministry.

“We created a separate civilian system,” Smotrich said, according to The New York Times, adding that, to deflect international scrutiny, the government has allowed the Defense Ministry to remain involved in the process so that it seems that the military is still at the heart of Judea and Samaria governance.

“It will be easier to swallow in the international and legal context,” Smotrich was quoted as having said. “So that they won’t say that we are doing annexation here.”

Smotrich also told those present that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was aware of the details of the plan and that he is “with us full on,” according to the report.

The New York Times said that the recording of the speech was provided by one of the attendees, a researcher from the Peace Now organization. A spokesman for Smotrich confirmed to The New York Times that the minister gave the speech and said the event was not a secret.

(Israel National News' North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Israel National News articles, however, is Israeli time.)