Israeli far-right leader Ben-Gvir gets national security minister post in Likud’s coalition deal
Israel’s prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party on Friday signed its first coalition agreement with the Jewish Power party, with far-right party leader Itamar Ben-Gvir given the newly created post of national security minister.
As part of the deal, Israel’s Jewish Power party will receive three ministerial posts. The authority of the Minister of Public Security, who was renamed the Minister of National Security, will be significantly expanded, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.
“We took a big step tonight towards a full coalition agreement, towards forming a fully, fully right-wing government,” Ben-Gvir said in the statement.
Netanyahu’s Likud and its religious and far-right allies won a clear victory in Israel’s Nov. 1 election, ending nearly four years of political instability. However, his efforts to quickly form a government have hit roadblocks as negotiations with coalition partners drag on.
The incoming government looks set to be the most right-wing in Israel’s history, forcing Netanyahu into a diplomatic balancing act between his coalition and Western allies.
Ben-Gvir’s record includes a 2007 conviction for racial incitement against Arabs and support for terrorism, as well as anti-LGBT activism. He says he no longer advocates expelling all Palestinians — only those he considers traitors or terrorists.
A settler living in the West Bank, which Israel occupied in a 1967 Middle East war, Ben-Gvir is opposed to a Palestinian state. He also supports Jewish prayer at a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site that houses the al-Aqsa Mosque, a remnant of ancient Jewish temples.
Israel’s right wing has for years sought to change the legal system, portraying it as an interventionist and left-leaning roadblock to its legislative agenda. The composition of the expected coalition now paves the way for such changes.
Netanyahu is on trial for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three scandals involving wealthy associates and powerful media moguls. He denies wrongdoing and has portrayed himself as the victim of a witch hunt by law enforcement and the judiciary.
But Israel’s prime minister-designate has insisted that proposed changes to the law would not affect the outcome of his trial. During the trial, he is bound by a conflict of interest agreement that limits his contacts with the legal system, although it is unclear whether it will be enforced.
(Axadle with AP and Reuters)