Israeli Finance Minister Smotrich is a somewhat controversial figure, at least outside Israel.

(March 2023) “We found those comments to not only be inaccurate but also deeply concerning and dangerous,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel

Standing behind a map of “Greater Israel” that included modern-day Jordan, Smotrich said the Palestinian people were “an invention” from the last century, and that there was “no such thing as Palestinians because there’s no such thing as the Palestinian people.”

He's also Mr. Voluntary Emigration.

As the leader of one of Netanyahu's coalition parties, National Religious Party–Religious Zionism, he got the Finance Ministry post.

So far, understandable enough.

But why is Smotrich, as Finance Minister, in charge of deciding what aid convoys to let in? Has the Isreaeli government ever clarified the reason why he is acting in that capacity? I don't know the ins and outs of Israeli cabinets, but that role would not fall to the Finance Minister in any governmental setup I am aware of.

Smotrich blocks flour shipments from reaching Gaza, in breach of Israeli pledge to US

Finance minister says he will not allow flour to be given to UNRWA aid agency in order to keep it out of Hamas’s hands

Given his viewpoints it is very much a case of the fox guarding the hen house and it seems to go a long way to explain the mess Israel is digging itself into.

Additionally his stewardship weakens Israel's diplomatic attempts to contain fallout from the, very public and increasing, criticism of its aid policies. Fronting it with someone with as much "baggage" in Western capitals is not a masterclass in diplomacy.

Question is: why did he get that role?


2 Answers 2


I suspect it's due to the fact that he's not just finance minister, but also responsible for overseeing COGAT (and apparently not just in the West Bank) as a "minister inside the Ministry of Defense", part of the deal that made the current Netanyahu government possible:

One clause, 6.4, specifies that Religious Zionism will appoint a minister within the Defense Ministry who will be “responsible for the areas of activity” of COGAT (the Coordinator of Activities in the Territories) and the Civil Administration. Smotrich has made clear that, along with his imminent appointment as finance minister, he himself will take this new, immensely powerful Defense Ministry job, maintaining offices and staffs in both ministries. [...]

In case Clause 6.4 is not sufficiently definitive, a second clause, 21, elaborates that “the aforementioned minister in the Defense Ministry will have full responsibility for the areas of activity of COGAT and the Civil Administration.”

Elsewhere, the deal further specifies that the new minister will be responsible for appointing the heads of COGAT and the Civil Administration. The first of those appointments was hitherto made by the defense minister, underlining the depletion of the defense minister’s role and the unprecedented authority being transferred to this second Defense Ministry minister.

("Territories" refers to the Palestinian ones.) Aid going into Gaza is also controlled by COGAT.

  • 1
    Interesting that one touted benefit for the unity government was to keep his sorry butt out of the main warfighting responsibilities but they ended up leaving him in charge of such a diplomatically and reputationally exposed position. I guess the full risk is only becoming clear now. Commented Mar 22 at 19:50
  • Reportedly Smotrich and Gallant recently clashed over some IDF appointments (although apparently not related to COGAT) jewishpress.com/news/politics/… Commented Mar 22 at 20:21

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who also serves as a junior minister in the Defense Ministry, met Monday night with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the first time since the two ministers clashed over the razing of an illegal West Bank outpost.


Smotrich also serves as a junior minister in the Defense Ministry. Now, as to why Yoav Gallant is not in charge of it instead, that's open to speculation, but a deal was made between Likud and Religious Zionism to give him more power within the Defense Ministry.

Under terms of a coalition agreement between Likud and Religious Zionism, Smotrich was made a minister within the Defense Ministry and given authority over the Civil Administration, which is in charge of civilian affairs in the West Bank, including enforcement against illegal construction.

Also, note that he has been given sweeping powers over the territory as a member of COGAT and a minister of the Defense Ministry.

The authorities being transferred to Smotrich — following an extended internal coalition battle over the issue — include enforcement powers over illegal construction, authority over planning and construction for settlements and land allocation matters.

The agreement between Smotrich and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant appears to give the ultranationalist leader sweeping powers over the territory, and allow him to advance his goal of thwarting Palestinian aspirations for a state in the West Bank by enabling the Israeli population there to substantially expand.


  • This is the more specific answer concerning the horse-trading that got him the COGAT post, so accepting. Commented Mar 23 at 18:33

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