Bezalel Smotrich

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Bezalel Smotrich
Smotrich.jpg
Date of birth (1980-02-27) 27 February 1980 (age 39)
Place of birthHaspin, Golan Heights
Knessets20, 21
Faction represented in Knesset
2015–2019The Jewish Home
2019–United Right
Ministerial roles
2019–Minister of Transportation

Bezalel Yoel Smotrich (Hebrew: בְּצַלְאֵל יוֹאֵל סְמוֹטְרִיץ׳, born 27 February 1980) is an Israeli politician. The leader of Tkuma,[1] he is a member of the Knesset for United Right.[2] Smotrich is also the co-founder of the NGO Regavim, an organization that monitors and pursues legal action in the Israeli court system against any construction lacking Israeli permits undertaken by Palestinians or Bedouins in Israel and in the West Bank.

Biography[edit]

Smotrich with United States Ambassador to Israel David M. Friedman during a visit to Hesder Yeshiva of Sderot, October 2017

Smotrich was born in Haspin, an Israeli settlement in the Golan Heights, and grew up in the Beit El settlement in the West Bank. His father was an Orthodox rabbi, and Smotrich received a religious education, attending Mercaz HaRav Kook, Yashlatz, and Yeshivat Kedumim. During his service in the Israel Defense Forces, he served in the Operations Division of the General Staff. He earned a BA in law from Ono Academic College, and studied toward a degree in public and international law from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which he did not complete. He was certified as a lawyer.[3]

He was arrested during protests against the disengagement plan in 2005, and was held in jail for three weeks, but not charged.[4] In 2006, he helped organize the "Beast Parade" as part of protests against a gay pride parade in Jerusalem, although he later admitted regret at the incident.[5]

He is co-founder of the NGO Regavim, which monitors and pursues legal action in the Israeli court system against any construction lacking Israeli permits undertaken by Palestinians or Bedouins in Israel and in the West .[6]

Political career[edit]

In the build-up to the 2015 Knesset elections, he won second place on the Tkuma list, after party leader Uri Ariel.[4] The party contested the elections as part of the Jewish Home, with Smotrich placed eighth on its list for the elections.[7] He was elected to the Knesset as the party won eight seats.[8] In 2018, he announced that he would challenge Uri Ariel for the leadership of the National Union faction.[9] On 14 January 2019, he defeated Ariel in a landslide victory.[10]

He is said to have played a key role in Israeli legislation to legalize the annexation of Palestinian lands, and a law banning advocates for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement from visiting Israel.[11][12]

Smotrich is a co-sponsor of proposed legislation change stating that sources of Jewish religious tradition such as the Torah have to be considered when dealing with legal matters that cannot be decided by legislation or court rulings. Other sponsors of this legislation are Miki Zohar from Likud, Yoav Ben-Tzur from Shas, and Nissan Slomiansky from The Jewish Home.[13]

In June 2019, Smotrich campaigned for the Ministry of Justice, saying that he sought the portfolio to "restore the Torah justice system".[14] Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu distanced himself from the comments and appointed openly gay MK Amir Ohana to the post.[15] According to Channel 13, Smotrich subsequently requested the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, but was not granted the position due to fears that he would strain ties between Israel and the Jewish diaspora.[16]

Legislation[edit]

Smotrich initiated the following legislation which passed in the Knesset:

  • In addition to government ministers and Knesset members; judges, senior military personnel, and police officers would also have to declare their capital every six years.[17]

Controversy[edit]

Proposal for separation of Jews and Arabs[edit]

In July 2015, Smotrich caused a controversy by declaring in a Knesset Interior meeting that developers in Israel should not have to sell homes to Arabs. The meeting took place following accusations that Galil Homes refused to sell homes to Arabs in Ma'alot, a northern Israeli town. Smotrich defended the developer, saying that, "Anyone who wants to protect the Jewish People and opposes mixed marriages is not a racist. Whoever wants to let Jews live a Jewish life without non-Jews is not a racist." He added that Jews are the ones deprived in Israel because "they don't get free land in the Negev", a reference to Bedouin. "I believe in God's words. I prefer that Jews make a living and wouldn't sell a house to Arabs."[18]

Anti-homosexual position[edit]

Smotrich opposes gay marriage, and is an advocate for family values. In 2006, Smotrich helped organize a "beast parade" in opposition to the Jerusalem gay pride parade.[19] In 2015, he referred to homosexual people as "abnormal", stating: "At home, everyone can be abnormal, and people can form whatever family unit they want. But they can't make demands from me, as the state." In the same discussion, he told the audience: "I am a proud homophobe."[20] He later apologized, and retracted his statement, saying: "Someone shouted from the crowd, and I responded inattentively."[21][22] In July 2015, after a fatal stabbing attack on the Jerusalem gay pride parade, he referred to the march as an "abomination" and a "beast parade".[23][24] The following month, Smotrich accused LGBT organizations of controlling the media and silencing those who share his conservative views.[25][23] An Israeli NGO, "Ometz", filed a complaint to the Knesset Ethics Committee to intervene and investigate Smotrich's comments.[26]

Hospital room segregation between Jews and Arabs[edit]

In April 2016, Bezalel Smotrich tweeted that he supports segregation of Arab and Jewish women in hospital's maternity wards: "It is natural that my wife would not want to lay down next to someone who just gave birth to a baby that might want to murder her baby in another 20 years."[27] The tweets were condemned by several Israeli politicians, including opposition leader Isaac Herzog and Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett.[28][29]

Stone-throwing and terrorism[edit]

Smotrich has advocated a shoot-to-kill policy for the military when they deal with Palestinian children throwing stones. Asked what he would do were another intifada to arise, and a Palestinian child were to throw stones, he replied: "Either I will shoot him, or I will jail him, or I will expel him." Regarding the establishment of a Palestinian state, Smotrich plans to 'abort their hopes'. Palestinians will have 3 options: to leave, accept rule by a Jewish state, or fight and be defeated.[30][11]

Smotrich has argued that price tag assaults on Palestinian people or property, while criminal in nature, are not to be classified as examples of terrorism, which he defined as "only violence carried out by an enemy within the framework of war against us". Commenting on a specific case, the Duma arson attack, in which a Palestinian family of 3 were killed, and for which a Jewish settler has been indicted, Smotrich stated that to brand such deeds as terrorism causes "mortal and unjustified harm to human and civil rights".[31]

In April 2018, Smotrich tweeted that Ahed Tamimi, a 17-year-old Palestinian serving an eight-month jail sentence for assaulting a soldier, incitement, and interfering with a soldier in the line of duty, "should have gotten a bullet, at least in the kneekap". Twitter responded by suspending his account for 12 hours and asking him to delete the tweet, saying that the tweet was "abusive" and could incite harassment. Smotrich refused to delete the tweet, saying that for Twitter, "freedom of speech is reserved for just for one side of the political map", and that he stood by his tweet.[32][33]

Personal life[edit]

Smotrich is an Orthodox Jew, and is married to Revital, with whom he has six children. The family lives outside the Kedumim settlement in the West Bank, in a house that was illegally built outside of state land and in breach of the settlement's master plan.[34][35]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sommer, Allison Kaplan (15 January 2019). "Radical Settler, "Proud Homophobe" and Wunderkind: Meet the New Leader of Israel's Far Right". Haaretz. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  2. ^ Meet Israel's new lawmakers, Ynetnews, 20 March 2015
  3. ^ "Knesset". knesset.gov.il. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  4. ^ a b Jewish Home faction Tekumah selects Knesset candidates Times of Israel, 12 January 2015
  5. ^ Jewish Home hopeful boasts of being "proud homophobe" Times of Israel, 24 February 2015
  6. ^ Winer, Stuart. "Far-right MK says High Court override bill is condition for joining coalition". www.timesofisrael.com. Retrieved 2 April 2019.
  7. ^ The Jewish Home list Central Elections Committee
  8. ^ Final Unofficial* results of the Elections for the Twentieth Knesset Central Elections Committee
  9. ^ "Smotrich challenging Ariel for National Union head – Israel News – Jerusalem Post". www.jpost.com. Retrieved 29 December 2018.
  10. ^ Hardliner Smotrich wins race to lead influential Jewish Home sub-faction The Times of Israel. 14 January 2019
  11. ^ a b Emma Graham-Harrison, 'Bezalel Smotrich: Israel’s far-right demagogue, drawing fringe beliefs to the centre,' The Guardian 12 March 2017.
  12. ^ "Knesset passes law barring boycott supporters from Israel", The Times of Israel 6 March 2017.
  13. ^ What Islamic State and One Member of Knesset Share Haaretz, 6 September 2015
  14. ^ "Smotrich says he wants to be justice minister so Israel can follow Torah law". Times of Israel. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  15. ^ "Netanyahu appoints Amir Ohana justice minister, first openly gay cabinet member". Times of Israel. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  16. ^ Magid, Jacob. "PM rejected demand of MK who longs for Torah rule to serve as diaspora minister". Times of Israel.
  17. ^ Milman, Omri (7 November 2016). "The Knesset Approved: Judges and Senior Officers will Submit a Declaration of Capital" (in Hebrew). Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  18. ^ Bayit Yehudi MK: God commanded Jews not to sell homes to Arabs Jerusalem Post, 16 July 2015
  19. ^ "Smotrich sees himself on the frontlines of a battle for Israel's future". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  20. ^ "Jewish Home hopeful boasts of being 'proud homophobe'". THE TIMES OF ISRAEL. 23 February 2015.
  21. ^ "MK Smotrich: The government I'll be part of, will not recognize same-sex couples". Nana10. 19 April 2015. Archived from the original on 24 December 2015.
  22. ^ "Netanyahu Government will not recognize same-sex marriage". GoGay.co.il. 19 April 2015.
  23. ^ a b "Smotrich: LGBT community attacks, slanders anyone who thinks differently from them – Israel News – Jerusalem Post". www.jpost.com. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  24. ^ "Right-wing MK: Jerusalem Pride Parade Is an 'Abomination'". Haaretz. 2 August 2015. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  25. ^ "Bayit Yehudi MK: Gays control the media". Ynetnews. 15 August 2015. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  26. ^ Pileggi, Tamar. "NGO files complaint against MK for 'Gays control the media' remark". www.timesofisrael.com. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  27. ^ Jonathan Lis,'Israeli Lawmaker: My Wife Wouldn't Want to Give Birth Next to an Arab Woman,' Haaretz 5 April 2016
  28. ^ "Smotrich supports hospital room segregation between Jews and Arabs". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 6 April 2016.
  29. ^ "Lawmaker Backs Segregated Jewish Arab Maternity Wards". Times of Israel. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
  30. ^ Ravit Hecht, He wants the Israeli military to be able to shoot to kill when children throw stones Haaretz 3 December 2016
  31. ^ 'Habayit Hayehudi MK: The Duma Murders Are Not Terrorism,' Haaretz 10 December 2015.
  32. ^ Jonathan Lis (23 April 2018). "Twitter Temporarily Suspended Israeli Lawmaker Who Said Palestinian Teen Should've Been Shot". Haaretz.
  33. ^ Michael Bachner (24 April 2018). "Twitter suspends MK who said Palestinian teen 'deserved a bullet'". The Times of Israel.
  34. ^ Radical Settler, ‘Proud Homophobe’ and Wunderkind: Meet the New Leader of Israel's Far Right Haaretz. 15 January 2019
  35. ^ Yotam Berger, "West Bank Home of Israeli Lawmaker Who Championed Land-grab Law Built Illegally", 1 March 2017

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Uri Ariel
Leader of Tkuma
2019–present
Incumbent