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Netanyahu Promised He'd Handle Israel's Security. It Was a Lie

It’s too bad that U.S. Jews who get rare access to Netanyahu don’t have the knowledge, or courage, to ask the necessary questions ■ Netanyahu turns a blind eye as his far-right partners plot West Bank revolution ■ The women in Israel risking their lives for abortions ■ Today's best reads on Haaretz

Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon
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Far right-wing Knesset member Itamar ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich during the Knesset swearing-in ceremony this month
Far right-wing Knesset member Itamar ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich during the Knesset swearing-in ceremony this monthCredit: ABIR SULTAN - AFP
Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon

Benjamin Netanyahu has a long history of lying to American Jews. Just ask Natan Sharansky, who negotiated a major agreement with U.S. Jewish leaders on Netanyahu’s behalf in 2016, only to see the prime minister turn his back on it after mild protests from Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox allies.

Last week, Netanyahu gave an interview to a Jewish-American podcast host who refrained from asking him difficult questions about his criminal trial and other unpleasant issues. During the interview, he gave that host an explicit promise that defense issues will be in the hands of his own Likud party in the next Israeli government, and not handed over to the far-right extremists who are set to be his partners.

A week later, it’s becoming clear that Netanyahu once again played his favorite game of saying something in English to his naïve supporters in the U.S. Jewish community, and then doing the exact opposite in front of sobered Israelis. The promise to keep defense and national security decisions in the hands of Likud has been thrown out the window as part of Netanyahu’s coalition agreement with the far-right Religious Zionism party.

Unlike the chocolate-babka sweetness he sold in his English interviews, which turned out to be nothing but air, Netanyahu’s deal with Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich is a real document, and it states clearly that Smotrich, the next finance minister, will enjoy unprecedented control over military affairs in the Palestinian arena.

In essence, Smotrich will get a veto over key appointments – such as the government coordinator in the occupied territories and the head of the civil administration, two positions that, in the past, were chosen exclusively by the Israeli military’s chief of staff. Smotrich, who barely served in a non-combat role for less than 18 months, will give orders to Israel’s top generals.

Benny Gantz, the outgoing defense minister, said on Monday that whoever replaces him on the job – most likely Likud lawmaker Yoav Galant, himself a former general – will be a “dollar store defense minister,” overshadowed by Netanyahu’s incredible concessions to Smotrich. That’s a correct observation. It’s too bad Jewish American journalists who get rare access to Israel’s next prime minister don’t have the knowledge, or courage, to ask about it.

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