Experts tell MEE new arrangement makes Bezalel Smotrich ‘governor’ of West Bank and deepens the ‘colonization of Palestine.’

by Oscar Rickett, Middle East Eye

Israel transferred large sections of the occupied West Bank’s administration from the military to a far-right cabinet minister on Thursday, in a move experts say amounts to “de jure annexation”.

The transfer was agreed between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich.

Under the deal, Smotrich – who also serves as a minister in the defence department – will have broad authority over civilian issues in the occupied West Bank.

Protecting a small Israeli settler enclave, Israeli soldiers patrol among Palestinian pedestrians in Hebron, West Bank

These include powers over unlicensed settler outposts, settlement planning and construction, and authority to appoint officials in the Civil Administration – Israel’s governing body in the West Bank.

It would mean a move from Israeli military governance, which has been the norm since Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967, to civilian political administration. Israel has never formally annexed the West Bank, and even if it did, its status would nonetheless remain defined by international law as a “temporary military occupation”.

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