Far-right Ben-Gvir to be police minister in Israeli gov’t

Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party has signed its first coalition deal with the far-right Jewish Power party, giving ultranationalist leader Itamar Ben-Gvir the police ministry and a seat in the security cabinet.

“We took a big step tonight toward a full coalition agreement, toward forming a fully, fully right-wing government,” Ben-Gvir said in a statement on Friday.

Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party has signed its first coalition deal with the far-right Jewish Power party, giving ultranationalist leader Itamar Ben-Gvir the police ministry and a seat in the security cabinet.

“We took a big step tonight toward a full coalition agreement, toward forming a fully, fully right-wing government,” Ben-Gvir said in a statement on Friday.

Ben-Gvir’s record includes a 2007 conviction for racist incitement against Arabs and support for terrorism, as well as anti-LGBTQ activism.

He says he no longer advocates the expulsion of all Palestinians – only those he deems “traitors” or “terrorists”.

An illegal settler living in the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967, Ben-Gvir is opposed to Palestinian statehood.

He also supports Jewish prayer in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, going against the established status quo of the site, and traditional Orthodox Jewish opposition to prayer there.

The increased presence of far-right Jews attempting to pray at the site, protected by Israeli forces, has incensed Palestinians and led to violent confrontations.

The inclusion of far-right figures in the coalition government has worried Israel’s Western allies, according to Israeli President Isaac Herzog, whose words were caught by a microphone he apparently thought was off.

Since winning a Knesset seat, Ben-Gvir has pulled a gun on Palestinian parking attendants in Tel Aviv – over which he was interrogated by police – and got into a dispute with legislator Ayman Odeh, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, when Odeh blocked him from the hospital room of a Palestinian prisoner on a hunger strike.

Last month, Ben-Gvir went to the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where Israeli authorities are attempting to evict Palestinian families, with a group of settlers who slashed Palestinians’ car tyres and tried to storm one family’s home.

When Palestinians responded by throwing stones, he pulled out a gun, despite the police presence at the scene.

Ben-Gvir claims Israeli police officers’ and soldiers’ hands are tied and he wants to loosen the rules to allow them to shoot at Palestinians who throw stones – but not Jewish people who do the same.

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