To Stav Shaffir’s voters, “Bezalel Smotrich” rhymes mainly with homophobia. To Joint List voters – and kudos to its component parties for coming to their senses and reuniting – Smotrich is a loyal Zionist. As he said when he was sworn in as transportation minister, “Anyone who wants to bring Jews to the Negev and the Galilee and to Judea and Samaria must build roads and railways. That’s where communities will be built. Yisrael Katz broke the ground, and I, with God’s help, will continue. This is a Zionist mission.”
As transportation minister he will now have much more freedom to expel Palestinians from their lands than he did as the head of the pro-settler nonprofit Regavim or as a member of the Knesset subcommittee for population transfer (euphemistically called the Subcommittee for Judea and Samaria). Smotrich, backed by the appetite for real estate and the infinite financial resources of the Yesha Council of settlements, will accelerate the institutionalization of the isolated Palestinian enclaves in the West Bank (in Area A, with Palestinian administrative and policing authority, and built-up areas in B, under Palestinian administrative authority).
He will succeed, as will the Civil Administration, the operations officer of the settlers. That’s chiefly due to the material gain that accrues to every Jewish Israeli from the perpetuation of the Judeo-Samaristan empire. But also because LGBT rights are the trendy social talking point in Israel today (just look at the news websites), while the Palestinians and their future attract neither votes nor user clicks (just look at the news websites). This is not to minimize the importance of the LGBT struggle or the dedication of LGBT activists to the struggle against the oppression of the Palestinians.
Maj. Gen. Sharon Afek, the military advocate general, is an out gay man, which is considered a great achievement for the LGBT community. But Afek heads a legal system that by its very nature sanctions all the colonialist evils and as such will approve Smotrich’s demands. When Smotrich was merely an eloquent MK, he called for closing the West Bank’s main north-south artery to Palestinian travel. “I call on my friends, the brave settlers and pioneers, to go out and close the entire length of Route 60 to Arab vehicles. If there are terror attacks, then there are no Arabs on the roads. Our lives come before their quality of life,” he tweeted in December.
He didn’t invent this method and way of thinking, of collective revenge and erasing the Palestinians as the original inhabitants. In an instant, an order could lock the iron gates at the entrances to the enclaves and sub-enclaves. On Monday morning, thousands of residents of the villages west of Ramallah found the road to the city through the village of Deir Ibzi blocked. The excuse: Someone had thrown a firebomb. If there are no gates, the entrances are blocked by army jeeps, as occurred Monday in Hizmeh. Many other entrances are blocked permanently by locked gates or mounds of rocks and dirt.
On Sunday, military forces again destroyed dirt roads in the Masafer Yatta area in the South Hebron Hills. The settlers and the army want to expel all the residents, ostensibly in order to use the area for military training. Destroying these roads is tantamount to introducing a policy of thirst, as the lives and the livelihood of these people depend on trucks that deliver water, for them and their goats and sheep: The Civil Administration tore up the modest water network laid by the Masafer Yatta local council. Meanwhile, the Civil Administration advances the construction of two roads the settlers want, in the southern and northern West Bank, on land expropriated from Palestinians.
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Israeli control of the freedom of movement and the roads in the West Bank – blocking them to Palestinians and widening them for Israelis – is a vital (and ancient) tool for gradually fragmenting the West Bank into numerous “Gaza Strips,” smaller but just as isolated, with growing numbers of young people who will seek to either leave or be killed. Isn’t that the stated vision of the transportation minister? Arabs who will accept our rule will be allowed to stay (in their enclaves). Those who won’t can leave; otherwise we shall fight them, and defeat them.