Bezalel Smotrich
Bezalel SmotrichNaama Stern

Religous Zionism party chairman Bezalel Smotrich sat dwn for an interview with the Besheva newspaper, which will be published in full tomorrow, on the coalition agreement he signed with the Likud party and Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu.

Smotrich said he was expecting a "revolution" in how the residents of Judea and Samaria are treated.

"Today there are half a million people who live in Judea and Samaria, vote for the Knesset, serve in the army and pay taxes - but [are governed by] the army like in a Banana Republic. This does not make sense. The idea is that responsibility for the residents of Judea and Samaria should be returned to the government ministries," Smotrich explained.

According to him, "it is necessary to correct this distorted reality, which today manifests itself in planning and construction, in transportation, in the quality of the environment, and in infrastructure. When the Civil Administration was established, it was expressly determined that it would not deal at all with the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria. The Oslo Accords stipulated that it was to be dissolved. This is a distortion that harms the public, harms the army, harms [natioinal] consensus and it needs to be fixed. Our minister in the Ministry of Defense will have all the civilian powers over Judea and Samaria,"

Smotrich emphasized that he has received the full backing of Prime Minister-designate Netanyahu on this issue. "Netanyahu fully supports the dissolution of the Civil Administration and the subordination of all powers to the regular government ministries. He's with us all the way."

During the interview, Smotrich revealed that at their first meeting, Netanyahu already vetoed the transfer of the Defense and Justice Ministries to the Religious Zionism party: "There were two portfolios that from the first moment Netanyahu said he was not ready for us to receive at any price, and that was security and justice. If we had all 14 seats in the negotiations, he may have had no choice but to give us the positions in any case, but Itamar decided that he wanted to split even before the government was sworn in, and this harmed the ability of both parties to set high demands. We tried to find solutions for this by way of the Constitution Committee, where all the reforms in the judicial system would have to be passed, and which we received It also includes the areas in the Religious Services Committee that are responsible for legislative issues."

Smotrich also harshly criticized the conduct of the Likud party during the negotiations: "There is a lot of frustration among all the partners over the way the Likud chose to conduct the talks. It conducted the entire procedure like a haggler who fought for every letter and every period. I would have expected that after the long road we travelled on together, and their return to power which would not have happened without us, they would have had the decency to tell their partners: take what you want, according to what's available of course. But that's not what happened."