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Netanyahu said to rule in favor of Smotrich in dispute with Gallant over West Bank

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich (L) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (R) (Yonatan Sindel; Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich (L) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (R) (Yonatan Sindel; Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ruled in favor of Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich in his battle with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant over ministerial responsibility for the Civil Administration in the West Bank, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

The three met Sunday in a bid to sort out the issue that came to a head on Friday when the two clashed over the razing of an illegal West Bank outpost.

The outpost was razed on Gallant’s order, triggering tensions with Smotrich, who is also a junior minister in the Defense Ministry.

Smotrich said he had told the Civil Administration, an agency within the Defense Ministry, to halt the evacuation of Or Chaim but that Gallant had regardless authorized the action.

Under terms of a coalition agreement between Likud and  Religious Zionism, Smotrich was made a minister within the Defense Ministry and given authority over the Civil Administration, which is in charge of civilian affairs in the West Bank, including enforcement against illegal construction.

During yesterday’s meeting Gallant warned that there can’t be a split in the chain of command, while senior security officials noted that the decisions of the Civil Administration also had security implications, Kan reported, publishing a partial transcript from the closed-door meeting.

However, Netanyahu, Smotrich and Justice Minister Yariv Levin all pointed to the coalition agreements as the covering factor.

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