Israel’s Far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has frozen funds for Palestinian towns and Palestinian education programs in East Jerusalem
In a new phase of war against Palestinians, Israel’s Far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich announced in a statement this Tuesday that he has decided to freeze funds for Palestinian towns and Palestinian education programs in East Jerusalem, proving very well the racist approach of the Israeli government against Palestinians.
Claiming in his statement that the funds would have eventually gone to “criminals and terrorists” in Palestine against Israelis, Smotrich said “the priorities of our national government… are different from those of the previous leftist government and we should not apologize for that”. The move blocks more than $85 million in development funds pledged under previous governments and will leave many Arab councils unable to deliver basic services.
Smotrich, the most extremist anti-Palestinian minister
The far-right minister in Netanyahu’s cabinet is also holding up about $53m slated for education preparatory program for young Palestinians, claiming that “Islamic radical cells” had taken root in Israeli colleges and universities.
Among all the anti-Palestinian and racist members of the new government in Israel, Smotrich is one of the most extremists. Upon coming to power as Minister of Finance in Israel, he took administrative control of large sections of the occupied West Bank from Israel’s military, a move that many activists and experts believe would lead to more annexation of Palestinian lands to Israel.
The leader of the Religious Zionism political alliance has even more anti-Palestinian moves in his career. Back in March, Smotrich said “there were no such thing as Palestinian people” in a speech he gave in Paris, showing a map of Jordan, mandatory Palestine, areas of Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia as part of Israel.
He also said that the Palestinian town of Huwwara, in the occupied West Bank, should be “wiped out” following the killing of two Israeli settlers in February.
Smotrich was also the first to propose in Hune that the Israeli government should advance a legislation to “Judaize” the Galilee, a region in northern Israel with a significant Palestinian population, as part of a deal struck by Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is also among the proponents of expanding Israeli settlements in the region.
Palestinian citizens, exiles in their own homeland
Palestinian citizens of Israel are estimated to make up about 20 percent of the Israeli population. They were granted citizenship in 1948, when the state of Israel was proclaimed in Palestinian territories. However, they have long faced discrimination, racism, and economic disenfranchisement by Israeli governments.
Smotrich’s funding freeze underscores this very old trend and shows just how Palestinian citizens of Israel have come under increased threat and harassment under a far-right government led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Last but not least, Tuesday announcement by Smotrich is also likely to put new economic pressure on Palestinians in East Jerusalem, who comprise nearly 40 percent of the city’s total population.
Activists and some Israeli politicians have accused Netanyahu’s government of willfully ignoring the plight of Palestinian citizens of Israel. To read between the lines, it is due to such pressure and violence against Palestinians that 102 Palestinian citizens have been murdered in several locations across Israel between January and June 2023, including women and small children, with little interference by the Israeli police. A total of 172 people have died in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, making 2023 one of the bloodiest years in the occupied Palestinian territories. Another 36 people were killed in the Gaza Strip.