Israeli minister looks to revive sovereignty plans for Judea and Samaria

Israel’s Finance Minister pushes two-tiered approach to annexation, establishing ‘facts on the ground’ while pursuing legislation to apply sovereignty over Judea and Samaria.

By David Rosenberg, World Israel News

Four years after the previous Netanyahu government was slated to apply sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria, a senior Israeli government minister is looking to reboot efforts to annex the territories administered by Israel since 1967.

Speaking at a faction meeting of the Religious Zionist Party Monday, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich vowed to push the government into applying Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, while in the meantime establishing “facts on the ground” with changes to the bureaucracy regulating Israeli communities in the area.

“We will never allow Kfar Saba to become Kfar Azza,” Smotrich told Religious Zionist Party MKs, referencing the massacre at Kibbutz Kfar Azza on October 7th, and comparing the town to the central Israeli city of Kfar Saba, located near the Green Line separating pre-1967 Israel from Judea and Samaria.

“We will apply sovereignty over Judea and Samaria. I plan to establish facts on the ground.”

The Israeli Right, and in particular the National Religious Party – the political forebearer of the Religious Zionist Party – has long sought to extend Israeli sovereignty over parts of Judea and Samaria, mirroring moves by the Israeli government in 1967 in Jerusalem and in 1981 in the Golan Heights.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly embraced the application of sovereignty over parts of Judea and Samaria in 2019 and 2020, under the aegis of then-President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” plan for a final status deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

In exchange for agreeing to a limited Palestinian state, Israel would receive American recognition for the application of sovereignty over large swaths of areas slated to remain under Israeli control under the Trump plan.

Due to friction with the Trump administration over the exact dimensions of the plan, pressure from then-Defense Minister Benny Gantz, and the coronavirus pandemic, the sovereignty bid was ultimately shelved, even when Netanyahu returned to power in December 2022, overshadowed by the new government’s judicial reform plan.

Smotrich now hopes to revive the annexation plan, telling party MKs that the necessary response to the October 7th massacres is to apply Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, and to restore Israeli control over the Gaza Strip.

“The price that [Hamas chief Yahya] Sinwar and the Nazis will pay for the massacre is the permanent loss of land,” Smotrich said.

“Sinwar said that they carried out the massacre in order to put Palestinian statehood back on the agenda. We must take it off the agenda and apply sovereignty over Judea and Samaria – today with facts on the ground, and later we will make it official with legislation.”

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Earlier this week, The New York Times revealed excerpts from another Religious Zionist Party faction meeting, held on June 9th, in which Smotrich disclosed a number of “mega-dramatic” changes to the administrative body Israel uses to govern those areas of Judea and Samaria not under Palestinian Authority control.

Among the developments touted by Smotrich – who also serves as Minister in the Defense Ministry, with authority over certain matters pertaining to Judea and Samaria – is the creation of “a separate civilian system” called the Settlements Administration, within the Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration – the body charged with managing most of Judea and Samaria.

The change, Smotrich argued, would ease the expansion of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria, and allow for greater enforcement efforts against illegal Palestinian land grabs.

In Monday’s meeting, Smotrich responded to the Times article.

“Last week, The New York Times published what the paper perceived as a major ‘exposé’ of my work as Minister in the Defense Ministry.”

“Ever since the report and the publication of the ‘secret’ recordings, many officials across the country and around the world expressed astonishment. No less than 21 various left-wing groups, including B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence published papers warning that the situation in Judea and Samaria has changed dramatically since I came into office.”

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“My life’s mission is to torpedo any possibility of establishing a Palestinian state in the heart of our country. That’s the reason I got involved in the public sector and why I established the organization ‘Regavim,’ and later why I entered politics and was elected to the Knesset and was appointed a government minister.”