1 + 1 = 3 Smotrich’s equation by combining accounting and money…and a political official: Government on the brink of explosion

Among all the appointments and divisions and dissolution of ministries, there is one that arouses great interest in both the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Finance: placing the ministerial department in the Ministry of Defense in the hands of the head of the “parliament”. Zionism”, Bezalel Smotrich, who was appointed and proposed for the post of Minister of Finance. Now it is not clear whether Smotrich will take over the Ministry of Defense alone or if he will give it to one of his people. However, the merger of the two ministries adds another hotbed of tension to the always-fraught axis of finance and security, which could create a new and different equation between the two ministries.
The main clause in Likud’s agreement with “religious Zionism” stipulates that “the aforementioned Minister of Religious Zionism will assume the position of Minister in the Ministry of Defense, and the areas of work of the Coordinator of Government Activities will be under his responsibility. in the territories.” [الضفة الغربية] and civil administration. For this, the coalition that is being formed will amend the fundamental law: the Government.
Placing these areas in the hands of Smotrich is causing outrage in the security apparatus, as it takes away important powers from the defense minister regarding life in the “Judea and Samaria” regions, and has the potential to increase security tensions in the region. The coordinator of Government activities in the “areas” and the Civil Administration have all planning powers in the “areas” and in the settlements themselves, and their transfer from the hands of the Minister of Defense to the Minister in the Ministry of Defense guarantees ambiguity. and coordination problems arising from the absence of a single clear source of authority.
A source in the political echelon who knows the nominated defense minister, Yoav Galant, said in private conversations this week: “Galant will not give up any powers. Anything that appears to be related to the security situation will remain under his control.” According to this source, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not fulfill his promises to Smotrich regarding the powers in the Ministry of Defense, and sooner or later this could be the reason for the bombing.
This source missed an important point, which is that Smotrich’s control over the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories and Civil Administration comes with a particularly important increase in the balance of terror for the next defense minister: control over the Ministry of Finance. This control will provide Smotrich with great power vis-à-vis the Ministry of Defense and the Israeli military.
He will use that authority, not precisely to determine the defense budget or security needs, as in the case of a security crisis, but rather in the personnel issues that concern the Israeli army – from salary increases, bridging pensions, approval of the chief of staff, and ends with administrative tools aimed at preserving qualitative workforce in the military in the fight against the private sector (mainly against high technology).
It seems that Smotrich does not have to argue with the military on these issues. But since his lofty mission – and this issue found its expression in the coalition agreement – is to improve the quality of life of settlers and construction in the “territories”, he has a clear settlement agenda above all. To push through this program, Smotrich needs powers and budgets, maybe he will get the powers from the Minister of Defense who is currently leading them, and as far as the budget is concerned, he, as Minister of Finance, knows how to deliver them with a hat.
If the Secretary of Defense does not allow him to proceed with the settlement plan, he can delay issues that are important to the Secretary of Defense. The control of the Ministry of Finance and the branch office that will be established in the Ministry of Defense represents the equation 1 + 1 = 3, for those who focus the most attention on life in “Judea and Samaria”.
How will the defense minister respond to this power equation? This is a basic question. Defense ministers have always lobbied for a regular army in dialogue with the Ministry of Finance. They never took into account the budget and priorities of other ministries, but considered security a high task that is not equal to any other task of the Government. Thus, the ministers of defense managed to establish special contracts for retirement at the age of 45, which has no equal in the public, and certainly in the private sector. This cannot be changed even under the next defense minister, and it does not matter who he will be.
Netanyahu is aware of this explosive potential
But what can change is the balance of power between the Minister of Defense and the Minister of Finance. Smotrich has independent political strength and without him Netanyahu would not have a government. He also has a finance ministry, without which Gallant (or any other minister) would not be able to advance the workforce issue that is so important to him.
Smotrich will also have a powerful body in the Ministry of Defence, with control over the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Areas and the Civil Administration Unit, and these powers will give him considerable authority to set the security agenda. This means that the next defense minister will be confirmed by Smotrich in a series of projects that will turn him into a minister with an asterisk.
This will put the mandated minister of defense in a serious conflict of interest. In order to get Smotrich’s cooperation on the budget issue, he will have to cooperate with him on the issue of settlement construction, a security-political issue of great importance.
Netanyahu is clearly aware of this explosive potential, and there are possible explanations for why he allowed it: because he is a prisoner of Smotrich and because he believes he will be able to resolve this complication.
Written by: Sammy Peretz
Haaretz / Marker 13.12.2022

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