Far-right Religious Zionism to control planning, construction at key West Bank civil authority COGAT

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a former political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

MK Bezalel Smotrich visits the illegal outpost of Evyatar, in the West Bank, on June 27, 2021. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)
MK Bezalel Smotrich visits the illegal outpost of Evyatar, in the West Bank, on June 27, 2021. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

A spokesman for Religious Zionism party chief Bezalel Smotrich confirms that the far-right party will have control over planning and construction issues in the Israeli government’s civil authority in the West Bank, known as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. The related pieces of this sensitive hybrid military-civil unit will be under a Religious Zionism party minister, housed within the Defense Ministry.

Channel 12 news reports, without citing sources, that Smotrich will himself fill this role, in addition to serving as finance minister in a power-sharing system in the next government. A Religious Zionism spokesperson denies this, saying the internal distribution of the party’s portfolios hasn’t been decided yet.

The general in charge of COGAT reports directly to the defense minister, bypassing the Israel Defense Force’s chief of staff. Inserting a to-be-named Religious Zionism minister into the office will presumably change that sensitive chain of command, in that on issues of planning, construction, and demolition of illegal homes, COGAT would report directly to a far-right politician within the Defense Ministry, rather than to the defense minister.

The unit also houses the Civil Administration, parts of which will fall under Religious Zionism’s control. The Civil Administration is the government’s civil representative in the West Bank.

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