Senior officers and generals in the occupation army have expressed their concern about the possibility of the appointment of extremist Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the Religious Zionism Party, as minister of defence, because he lacks experience, knowledge, or authority to deal with the ministry.
A Channel 12 correspondent quoted General Tal Rousso, commander of the Southern Command and head of the Army’s Depth Corps, who confirmed that “It would be bad if Smotrich is appointed minister of defence because he has done nothing in this field, and he is not known. He evaded the army. What is the example he will set for the Israeli Jews who did not serve in the army, and in some way made concessions and evaded service. To me, it is very worrying.”
As for General Matan Vilnai, the former deputy chief of the general staff, he “opposed the possibility of appointing Smotrich to this position, because state security, especially the minister of defence, requires responsibility, seriousness and making professional decisions daily. The security file must be handed over to an individual responsible and experienced in dealing with security issues. Otherwise, we are risking the lives of our soldiers with this possible appointment.”
Channel 12 quoted previous statements by General Amos Gilad, the former head of the political and security department in the Ministry of Defence, warning against appointing Smotrich because “a serious catastrophe might occur. Cooperation with the PA is necessary for security, otherwise, we will face the entire Palestinian public. If Smotrich comes and incites against the PA, the settlers will riot. He was arrested in the past during acts of arson along the West Bank roads and other attacks. Smotrich is a man with backbone, and he will not deny the circles from which he comes, and I expect a very intense confrontation that is already developing.”
He added that “appointing Smotrich means that there will be a deterioration that already exists on the ground … the deterioration on the ground I am referring to will be represented in utilising the entire Israeli army in favour of only one group of Jews, the settlers, who will feel free to stir up riots. Therefore, I expect a great catastrophe here, that is already on the horizon.”
As for the former head of the General Security Agency – the Shin Bet, Yuval Diskin, he confirmed in an article published by Channel 12: “Smotrich is the leader of a racist party, and he invents false conspiracy theories. Appointing him means entering a dark and dangerous tunnel,that Israel should not go down, because there is no light in the dark tunnel, he is trying to drag us into. The statements he is making only increase the campaigns of hatred and division that Israeli society is suffering from within, and it is the greatest threat to our future. Its consequences will be unbearably harsh.”
The warnings come at a time when Israeli Prime Minister-designate, Benjamin Netanyahu, is facing American and international pressure not to appoint Smotrich because of his fascist and racist views towards Palestinians.