Likud says no way to religious MK who sought justice ministry after talk of Torah law

Chances of the religious MK receiving the ministry he desires plummet after his statements about his desire for Israel to be run by Jewish law.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

“Smotrich can forget about being Justice Minister,” said senior Likud MKs Tuesday, following the statements the co-leader of the United Right-Wing Parties (URWP) made at Jerusalem Day celebrations on Sunday.

MK Betzalel Smotrich had called for Israel to be run by Jewish law “as in the days of King David” when he spoke at the flagship school of national-religious Zionism, Mercaz HaRav, to mark the 52nd anniversary of the liberation of Jerusalem.

Although he had added that adjustments would be made for modern times, and that “nothing would be done by force,” his words drew a firestorm of protest from secular politicians on all sides of the political spectrum.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly drew away from the controversial remarks.

“The State of Israel will not be a state based on Jewish law,” Netanyahu tweeted Monday.

Smotrich’s rejection, reported by Yedioth Ahronoth on its front page, was shortly pictured on the religious MK’s Twitter feed, together with a pithy response.

“Really, as if until yesterday Bibi Netanyahu was really running to give me the justice portfolio, and not, say, Sheli Yechimovich,” he wrote.

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His mention of the prominent Labor MK was connected to rumors that Netanyahu had tried to offer various ministries to Labor party members if they would help him form a coalition. Laborites rejected his offer, and negotiations with right-wing parties petered out, forcing new elections.

Smotrich took a further shot at the prime minister, saying, “The level of trustworthiness of Khan al Ahmar.”

Smotrich was referring to the 2018 promise Netanyahu had made before the elections to evacuate an illegal Bedouin encampment, which Israel’s Supreme Court had agreed could be removed by law and yet was still left standing.

Smotrich had made the justice ministry a key demand of his party during coalition negotiations. Since the ministry had previously been in the hands of the Jewish Home party, which constituted the major part of the new URWP, he argued that it should remain under the party’s control.