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Peace Now group: Smotrich’s demand could lead to ‘genuine annexation’ of the West Bank

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The left-wing activist organization Peace Now has warned that if the far-right Religious Zionist Party realizes its desire for control over civilian rule — which governs aspects of civilian life in about 60 percent of the West Bank — it could lead to the destruction of Israel . “The real fusion of regions”.

In its coalition talks with the Likud party of expected new Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, religious Judaism is demanding that civilian administration be moved from the Defense Ministry to the Finance Ministry.

Religious Zionist leader Bezalel Smotrich, the finance minister-designate, is eager to take control of the agency and its agenda of expanding Israeli settlements in the West Bank and thwarting Palestinian aspirations for an independent state in the region to improve.

Smotrich sees control of the agency as a means of expanding Israel’s sovereignty in the West Bank, replacing military administration of the area with direct control by the central government and its ministries.

Critics have strongly condemned the prospect of such a move, saying it would amount to the de facto annexation of Area C — the 60 percent of the West Bank where Israeli settlements are located and where Israel imposes military and military sanctions on both Israel and Israel. . and Israel. Keeps records. Palestinian population.

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Likud’s talks with Smotrich turned into mutual accusations, despite reported progress in talks with other potential coalition partners. Religious Zionism claims Netanyahu has failed to keep his promises and Likud accuses the far-right party of making exaggerated demands relative to its size.

In a lengthy statement to the press on Wednesday, Religious Judaism claimed that after Netanyahu requested that Smotrich withdraw his demand to become defense minister, it was agreed that he would become finance minister instead, and that he would also assume the responsibility of civil administration.

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According to the statement, religious Zionist negotiators were told later on Tuesday evening that Smotrich would not be given “full responsibility” over civilian administration.

Civil administration began evacuating six homes on the brink of demolition in the Nativ HaVot neighborhood of Gush Etzion. The administration called in a transport company to remove the contents of the apartment. June 10, 2018. (Gershon Allinson/FLASH90)

Likud insisted that no agreement had been reached on the transfer of government entities to the Treasury Department at any stage of the negotiations.

The civilian administration is primarily responsible for planning and construction in Area C of the West Bank, as well as enforcement against unauthorized construction, whether by Israeli settlers or Palestinians.

In addition, the agency is responsible for providing civil infrastructure, such as paving roads and supplying water and electricity.

About 491,000 Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank, all of which are in Area C. Population figures are not readily available for Palestinian residents of the region, with estimates ranging from 100,000 to over 200,000.

The Civil Administration is an agency of the Ministry of Defense under the auspices of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, a department headed by IDF Major General Ghassan Alian.

COGAT Chief Major General Ghassan Elian in a video message to Ghazan on August 5, 2022. (screen capture/COGAT)

Sheikh Morag, executive director of the Peace Now organization, which opposes Israeli control of the West Bank, said moving the civilian administration from the Ministry of Defense to another government department would under certain circumstances undermine the de facto annexation of Area C. could mean. . Is. ,

Morag said that if Smotrich placed civilian administration functions under the Treasury or another ministry, it would mean that the government of Israel would take control of what was previously a military administration.

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The Religious Judaism party platform is, in fact, calling for the abolition of civil administration and the transfer of its officials to relevant ministries — a goal the platform says will be achieved through legislation.

The title of the election manifesto on this issue is “True Sovereignty: Cessation of Civil Rule and Transfer of Responsibility Over Settlements in Judea and Samaria”. [the West Bank] For ministries.

If the civilian administration had remained intact, only passing from the Ministry of Defense to the Ministry of Finance, the situation would have remained largely unchanged. But if the authority of the civilian administration over only Israeli residents of Area C is taken over by the central government of Israel, while authority over the Palestinian population of the area remains with the civilian administration, such a regime would be akin to apartheid, said Morag.

“Smotrich sees Area C as Israeli territory and is going to impose his vision of Jewish supremacy there, meaning he will allow settlements to take Palestinian land and the minority of Palestinians living in Area C will do anything to suppress , meaning de facto occupation of territory,” she said.

“Annexing area C means leaving areas A and B [under Palestinian control] Without territorial proximity. This poses a major threat to the viability of the two-state solution.”

The Religious Zionist Party claims it is unfair for the more than 491,000 Israeli citizens living in settlements in the West Bank to live under military rule, causing significant complications in their lives, especially when it comes to building houses and expanding the settlements. It’s coming to ,

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