New power for Israel ‘settlers champion’ Smotrich

 A far-right extremist government minister has taken over the administration of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, raising fears of a green light for a raft of illegal new outposts.
Bezalel Smotrich, head of the Religious Zionism party and a notorious religious bigot, now has enforcement powers over illegal construction, and authority over planning and construction for settlements and land allocation.
Smotrich, who himself lives in a house built without permission in a settlement illegal even under Israeli law, is a bitter opponent of Palestinian statehood who has been accused of inciting hatred of Arab citizens of Israel.
His new powers will enable him to deny Palestinian aspirations for their own state by vastly expanding the Jewish population of the occupied territories, while ordering the demolition of Palestinian homes.
Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti, secretary of the Palestinian Initiative Movement, told Arab News: “Appointing Smotrich to this position and with these powers means annexing the West Bank to Israel, and freeing the settlers to do whatever they want against the Palestinians.”
Barghouti said Smotrich and another extremist, security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, were now responsible for everything related to and affecting the lives and property of the Palestinians, such as the civil administration, internal security, settlement financing, control of Al-Aqsa Mosque, border guards, and Israeli prisons.
“This means declaring war on the Palestinians,” Barghouti said.
More than 650,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements distributed over more than 165 settlements and random outposts.

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