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Bezalel Smotrich. CC/Atbannett at Hebrew Wikipedia.

Bezalel Smotrich, the head of Israel’s Religious Zionist party, in November 2022 became Benjamin Netanyahu’s Minister of Finance, at the same time that Itamar Ben-Gvir became the new Minister of National Security. The two “far-right settlers” are overt racists, with the mission of actively destroying any grounds for collaboration between Jews and their neighbors.

Smotrich grew up in an illegal West Bank settlement and got his perverse take on Judaism from Rabbi Abraham Kook’s operations, attending Yashlatz and Mercas HaRav. In 2005, at age 25, he was arrested in possession of 700 liters of gasoline, on suspicion of a plot to blow up the Ayalon Highway. He was jailed for three weeks, never charged, and then released.

He co-founded the NGO Regavim, a group which monitors and pursues legal action against constructions by Palestinians, Bedouins and other Arabs without an Israeli permit—even though he lives in an illegal settlement outside Israel. In the Knesset, he pushed legislation to legalize annexation of Palestinian lands, and to ban both Jewish and Palestinian advocates of the “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions” movement from entering Israel.

After becoming Netanyahu’s Minister of Finance, he added the position “adjunct minister” in the Defense Ministry. In February 2023, he was entrusted with a large part of the administration of the occupied West Bank, to fold the illegal Jewish settlements on Palestinian land under the administration of normal Israeli territory—de facto legalizing the settlements. After a 2023 Palestinian counterattack on West Bank settlers, he called for “striking the cities of terror and its instigators without mercy, with tanks and helicopters.” He also recommended that Israel should act “in a way that conveys that the landlord has gone crazy.”

His track has been more public the last eight years. Some highlights follow:

In a 2015 interview, he stated: “The Palestinian Authority is a burden, and Hamas is an asset.” He noted that, while the PA was harming Israel in international forums, Hamas’ status as a terrorist organization meant that “no one will recognize it, no one will give it status at the ICC, no one will let it put forth a resolution at the UN Security Council.” This aligns with Netanyahu’s longtime policy of funding Hamas as a way of undercutting the PA and the two-state solution.

In July 2015, in a Knesset committee meeting, he defended segregation in the sale of property or homes by explaining: “Anyone who wants to protect the Jewish People and opposes mixed marriages is not a racist. Whoever wants to let Jews live a Jewish life without non-Jews is not a racist.”

On the 2015 murder of a Palestinian family: Smotrich defended the vigilante attacks by settlers’ youth gangs—the “price-tag assaults,” so-called because the hoodlums exact a “price” from Palestinians, Israeli peace activists, or even Israeli authorities who get in their way. On the infamous 2015 firebombing of a Palestinian family by such hoodlums (burning to death an 18-month-old baby and both parents), Smotrich objected to calling such acts terrorism, saying that to do so causes “mortal and unjustified harm to human and civil rights.” How so? Terrorism, it turns out, is “only violence carried out by an enemy within the framework of war against us.”

In April 2016, he tweeted in support of segregating Jewish and Palestinian maternity units, explaining: “It is natural that my wife would not want to lie down next to someone who just gave birth to a baby that might want to murder her baby in another 20 years.”

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