Far-right extremist gets security job in Israel after coalition deals | Israel

Extremist Israeli politician Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has a a long history of anti-Arab rhetoric and stuntswill become the country’s next national security minister, according to the first of several expected coalition deals reached by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Likud announced an agreement with Ben-Gvir’s Jewish Power party on Friday. Negotiations with three other potential far-right and ultra-Orthodox coalition partners are ongoing. If successful, Netanyahu will return to the prime minister’s office and preside over the most right-wing and religious government in Israel’s history.

Assigning such a sensitive role to Ben-Gvir raises fears of further escalation of Israeli-Palestinian tensions. Ben-Gvir and his allies hope to grant immunity to Israeli soldiers who shoot Palestinians, deport rival lawmakers and impose the death penalty on Palestinians convicted of attacks on Jews.

Ben-Gvir was a student of the racist Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was banned from parliament and whose Kach party was designated a terrorist group by the US before he was assassinated in New York in 1990.

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

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

In his new role, Ben-Gvir will be in charge of the police, among other things, allowing him to implement some of the hard-line policies against the Palestinians that he has championed for years.

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

As head of the ministry, Ben-Gvir will lead the police and paramilitary Border Police, which work alongside Israeli soldiers in Palestinian population centers.

Likud lawmaker Yaron Levin praised the accord, which was signed on 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 his Jewish Power party merged with the Religious Zionism party. Ben-Gvir’s closest political ally, Religious Zionist leader Bezalel Smotrich, is in separate talks with Likud, which emerged as the largest party in the election.

Netanyahu resisted some of the requests, such as Smotrich seeking a defense minister. The talks focus on the conditions under which Smotrich will become finance minister.

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