(Photo Credit : Olivier FItoussi/Flash90)
The leader of the Religious Zionist Party, Bezalel Smotrich, demanded a de facto annexation of the West Bank during negotiations to form a new government, according to a report published by Al-Quds news on 9 November.
The Jerusalem Post reported that “Netanyahu attempted to reach a slimmed-down coalition agreement on cabinet portfolios and for policy aims to be worked out after the government is sworn in. The party leaders have thus far rejected that offer, and the changes in the West Bank are among Smotrich’s policy demands.”
Smotrich is expected to be named a cabinet minister in the new government and has asked for a position at the Finance Ministry, however, Netanyahu has reportedly offered him the Education Ministry.
Meanwhile, Israeli Knesset deputy Itamar Ben-Gvir said he wished Arab lawmakers would leave Israel “without ever returning,” Anadolu news agency reported.
Ben-Gvir is the head of the Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party and the second man in the Religious Zionism coalition, led by Bezalel Smotrich.
He is also known for his hostile actions targeting Arabs, in the latest incident he shared a photo of Arab MP Ahmed Tibi at the airport with the caption: “They are fleeing Israel…. We have won,” according to Middle East Monitor.
Religious Zionism, affiliated with the political bloc led by future Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, won 14 of the 120 Knesset seats in the 1 November elections.
On the other hand, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz heavily criticized Arab-Israeli member of the Knesset (MK) Aida Touma-Suleiman for a social media post in which she expressed solidarity with the victims of Israel’s nightly raids in the occupied West Bank.
“Ashamed of elected officials who support terrorists and are willing to allow them to continue to spill the blood of Israeli citizens,” Israel’s outgoing war chief said in a tweet on 25 October.
Gantz went on to say that “Touma-Suleiman proves once again that the [Hadash–Ta’al] joint list cannot be integrated into the government and cannot be relied upon,” before concluding that “Israel’s security precedes the formation of a [ruling] coalition.”
Tel Aviv has launched near-nightly raids across the occupied West Bank over recent months, in a desperate attempt to quell growing resistance against the occupation’s crimes.