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Far-right Netanyahu ally seeks return to biblical law in Israel

Smotrich is a prominent pro-settlement advocate [NurPhoto]

Date of publication: 3 June, 2019

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Far-right pro-settlement Bezalel Smotrich - who hopes to be Israel's next justice minister - is advocating for a return to Jewish law as practiced by 'King David and King Solomon'.
An Israeli politician campaigning to be Israel's next justice minister said on Monday that Israel should return to biblical times and be ruled by Jewish law, but cautioned "there will be no stoning".

Bezalel Smotrich is a part of Israeli Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu's parliamentary coalition and a candidate for the top ministerial position if Netanyahu returns to government after the country’s election re-run in September.

He is also hoping to seize the position of interim justice minister after Netanyahu fired former justice minister Ayalet Shaked on Sunday.

"My desire is that in the long term the state of Israel will be run according to the Torah," Smotrich said according to AFP. "That's the way it should be - it's a Jewish state."

Speaking with public broadcaster KAN, the MK said he hoped Israel would "return to be run as it had been during the days of King David and King Solomon – according to the law of the Torah".

Smotrich said that extreme change could only happen "when the Jewish people want it, not when I want it", but was confident in the appeal of religious law.

"The Jewish people will want [it]. They'll see how the law of the Torah is correct and just and moral and humane," he said.

Smotrich, a co-leader of the far-right Union of Right Wing Parties, did not mention how his proposal for judicial reform would affect Palestinian and other non-Jewish citizens of Israel.

The far-right union won five seats in Israel's 9 April elections.

Smotrich declared he would join Netanyahu's coalition government on the condition that he receive the justice portfolio.

The Israeli premier failed to form a coalition government, instead moving to dissolve parliament.

While Smotrich envisions a "return to… the days of King David and King Solomon", he explained that Jewish law as derived from the Torah could be adapted "in accordance with these times and challenges and economy and the way society conducts itself in 2019".

Smotrich later said on Twitter that while some may think a return to biblical law is "scary", the Torah has "much to offer to our times".

"You need to understand how it blends with democracy and civilian life," he said, adding that  "there will be no stoning" under modernised Israeli Jewish law, according to ynet.

Following the interview, Tamar Zandberg, head of the left-wing Meretz party, submitted an appeal to Israel's attorney general to block Smotrich's possible appointment as justice minister.

"There's a real risk that the justice ministry will be used to undermine Israeli democracy," she said.

Right-wing MK Avigdor Liberman also slammed Smotrich for the comments.

"These are no longer comments coming from a delusional hilltop youth, but a statement of intent," he said according to The Times of Israel.

Smotrich was born and raised in Israeli settlements considered illegal under international law and is a prominent activist for the settlement movement.

He has called for the separation of Palestinian and Jewish women in maternity wards, advocated for a shoot-to-kill policy when the Israeli army deals with children throwing stones, and is co-founder of an NGO which seeks to dismantle Palestinian-owned properties in the West Bank and Negev desert.

Smotrich is also a self-avowed "homophobe" who has called LGBT people "abnormal".

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