(Photo Credit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv for The New York Times)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to give National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir his long-sought “national guard” in exchange for supporting a delay to the coalition’s judicial overhaul plan.
The Jewish supremacist minister circulated a letter to Israeli media late on 27 March in which the premier vows to raise the issue of forming the civilian militia during an upcoming cabinet meeting on Sunday.
“The [judicial] reform will pass. The National Guard will be established. The budget I demanded the Ministry of National Security will be passed in its entirety,” Ben Gvir tweeted on 27 March, moments after Netanyahu officially halted the controversial reforms until the Knesset’s next session in May.
הרפורמה תעבור. המשמר הלאומי יוקם. התקציב שדרשתי למשרד לביטחון לאומי יעבור במלואו.
אף אחד לא יפחיד אותנו. אף
אחד לא יצליח לשנות את הכרעת העם.
חזרו אחרי: ד-מו-קר-טיה!
— איתמר בן גביר (@itamarbengvir) March 27, 2023
Ben Gvir reportedly threatened to quit the government if Netanyahu halted the overhaul plan, endangering the government’s majority in the Knesset. He also claims Netanyahu promised him that, if talks with the opposition prove unsuccessful during Passover recess, the reform would pass during the next Knesset term.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel on Monday called the proposed national guard “a private, armed militia that … will first and foremost act in mixed cities, first and foremost against the Arab population.”
The creation of this private militia has been high on the list of Ben Gvir’s demands since Israel’s current far-right coalition took power last November. Last week, Ben Gvir threatened to block the government’s budget if it did not include provisions for the national guard’s creation.
In January, the Jewish supremacist official claimed a national guard was needed to prepare the country for a new “imminent war” with Palestinian resistance group Hamas.
Alongside Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich – who made headlines this month for saying that “there is no such thing as a Palestinian people” – Ben Gvir leads the ultra-nationalist Religious Zionist party.
Ben Gvir’s Jewish supremacist ideals are influenced by Meir Kahane, the founder of the Kach party, which seeks to establish a “pure Jewish society.”
Kach was until May of last year designated by the US as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) and banned in Israel, after one of its members, Baruch Goldstein, killed dozens of Palestinian worshippers at a mosque in Hebron in 1994.
In 2007, Ben Gvir was convicted of incitement to racism and of belonging to a terrorist group. More recently, he has acted as a lawyer defending activists from Lehava, a pro-segregation group that calls for the full expulsion of Palestinians and a ban on Christmas.
He also represented Israeli settlers implicated in the 2015 firebombing of a Palestinian home in the occupied West Bank that killed a baby and his parents.
“When we form the government, I will promote the Deportation Law, which will deport anyone who acts against the State of Israel or [its] soldiers,” Ben-Gvir said in an interview last August.
Last December, he pulled a gun on two Palestinian security guards in a Tel Aviv car park after he left his car in a prohibited area. Within minutes, he pulled out his gun, yelling at one of the guards: “I’ll take care of you.”