Smotrich said rushing plan to expand West Bank settlements after terror attacks

Far-right finance minister says he intends to present sweeping framework at next cabinet meeting set for Sunday; Netanyahu brings forward security cabinet meet in wake of attacks

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich speaks at a press conference in Jerusalem on August 9, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich speaks at a press conference in Jerusalem on August 9, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich is rushing through his plan to expand West Bank settlements and legalize dozens of outposts, in the wake of a series of deadly terror attacks in recent days.

Smotrich sent a letter to ministers informing them of his intent to present his plan to the cabinet this week and encouraging them to submit any comments or additional plans of their own, according to Channel 12, which obtained a copy of the letter on Monday.

“Last week, we distributed for your comments the government plan for strengthening the settlements of Judea and Samaria,” the letter said referring to the West Bank by its biblical names

“In the wake of the two terrible terrorist attacks this week, we request to bring the plan to the cabinet this upcoming Sunday,” it said, asking ministers to submit their comments as soon as possible.

In addition to the cabinet meeting Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to move up a security cabinet meeting to Tuesday, his office said. The meeting of the high-level forum was originally scheduled for September 10.

A source in his office told the Walla news site that the decision has nothing to do with the demand made by far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir to immediately convene the top-level forum in the wake of the attacks.

Smotrich, head of the far-right Religious Zionism party, is reportedly advancing a plan to legalize 155 wildcat outposts throughout the West Bank, capitalizing on his control of both the Finance Ministry as well as settlement affairs within the Defense Ministry, per coalition agreements with Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Young Jewish settlers play in the West Bank Jewish outpost of Beit Hogla, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

The plan is said to map out all of Israel’s illegal outposts beyond the Green Line, with the goal of eventually legalizing all of them. To legalize the outposts built on private Palestinian land, Smotrich aims either to have them transferred to what Israel views as state land or to apply alternative legal mechanisms that would allow them to remain in place, according to the report.

He also plans to allocate $180 million to settlements and outposts.

The money includes millions for services like health, education, and youth clubs, but also large amounts for promoting and expanding Israel’s civilian footprint in the West Bank, including NIS 92 million ($24 million) in discretionary funding to be used at will, according to settlement watchdog Peace Now, which said it received an advance copy of the proposal.

On Monday, Batsheva Nigri, 42, was killed when a vehicle she was in with her 12-year-old daughter — who was unharmed in the attack — and a driver came under fire from a passing car while driving on the Route 60 highway, close to the Beit Hagai junction, south of Hebron.

Members of Israeli security forces and emergency services stand at the scene of a deadly shooting attack near Hebron in the southern West Bank, August 21, 2023. Inset: Batsheva Nigri, who was killed in the attack. (HAZEM BADER / AFP; courtesy)

The military said it caught the suspects in Hebron early Tuesday morning.

The attack came two days after a Palestinian terrorist killed two Israeli men, a father and son, while they were doing errands in the northern West Bank town of Huwara. Shay Silas Nigreker, 60, and his 28-year-old son Aviad Nir were shot to death at a carwash on Saturday afternoon.

Violence has surged across the West Bank over the past year and a half, with a rise in Palestinian shooting attacks against Israeli civilians and troops, near-nightly arrest raids by the military, and an uptick in revenge attacks by extremist Jewish settlers against Palestinians.

The IDF said Monday it was bolstering the West Bank with an additional infantry battalion and two companies, following the two recent deadly terror attacks.

Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank have left 29 people dead and several others seriously wounded since the beginning of the year, including in Monday’s shooting.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: