Advertisement

Far-right Jewish nationalist Itamar Ben-Gvir to be Israel’s national security minister

Far-right Israeli lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir
Far-right Israeli lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir arrives at the scene of an explosion at a bus stop in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
(Maya Alleruzzo / Associated Press)
Share

Extremist politician Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has a long record of anti-Arab rhetoric and stunts, has been promised the post of national security minister in Israel’s new government under terms of the first of what are expected to be several coalition deals struck by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Likud announced the agreement with Ben-Gvir’s Jewish Power party Friday.

Negotiations with three other far-right and ultra-Orthodox potential coalition partners are continuing. If successful, Netanyahu would return to the prime minister’s office and preside over the most right-wing and religious government in Israel’s history.

The awarding of the sensitive security post to Ben-Gvir raises concerns of a further escalation in Israeli-Palestinian tensions. Ben-Gvir and his allies hope to grant immunity to Israeli soldiers who shoot at Palestinians, deport rival lawmakers and impose the death penalty on Palestinians convicted of attacks on Jews.

Advertisement

Ben-Gvir is the disciple of a racist rabbi, Meir Kahane, who was banned from parliament and whose Kach party was branded a terrorist group by the U.S. before Kahane was assassinated in New York in 1990.

Ahead of Israel’s Nov. 1 election, Ben-Gvir grabbed headlines for his anti-Palestinian speeches and stunts, including brandishing a pistol and encouraging police to open fire on Palestinian stone throwers in a tense Jerusalem neighborhood.

A return to power for former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to complicate Israel’s relationship with its neighbors and the United States.

Nov. 2, 2022

Before becoming a lawyer and entering politics, he was convicted of offenses that included inciting racism and supporting a terrorist organization.

In his new role, he would be in charge of the police, among other things, enabling him to implement some of the hard-line policies against the Palestinians he has advocated for years.

As part of the coalition deal, the Ministry of Internal Security would be renamed the Ministry of National Security and would be given expanded powers, Likud said Friday.

Advertisement

As head of the ministry, Ben-Gvir would oversee the police and the paramilitary border police, which operate alongside Israeli soldiers in Palestinian population centers.

Israel’s outgoing governing coalition fears progressive policies it adopted will be rolled back by the new conservative coalition.

Nov. 15, 2022

Likud lawmaker Yaron Levin praised the agreement, which was signed Thursday, as “the first agreement on the way to establishing a stable right-wing government led by Benjamin Netanyahu.”

Ben-Gvir first entered parliament in 2021, after Jewish Power merged with the Religious Zionism party. Ben-Gvir’s closest political ally, Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich, is conducting separate negotiations with Likud, which emerged as the party with the most seats in parliament in the elections.

Netanyahu has balked at some of the demands, such as Smotrich’s demand to become defense minister. Talks currently focus on the terms under which Smotrich would become finance minister.

Advertisement