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TEL AVIV — Some of Israel’s allies abroad are worried about the possibility of Benjamin Netanyahu appointing far-right politicians to key posts as he forms a new government.
Netanyahu, who served as prime minister for more than a decade until his ousting last year, returns to power after elections last week.
Jewish nationalist Itamar Ben-Gvir, who met Netanyahu on Monday, is expected to become a senior cabinet minister. He could face a Biden administration boycott, according to a former Obama administration official.
“I think the United States will probably boycott it,” said David Makovsky from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which worked on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks under former President Barack Obama. “I have reason to believe they are strongly considering this.”
President Biden congratulated Netanyahu during a call on Monday. Neither Netanyahu’s office nor the White House mentioned the subject of Ben-Gvir.
Convicted by an Israeli court in 2007 of inciting anti-Arab racism, Ben-Gvir stoked tensions with Palestinians this year when he visited the compound of Al-Aqsa Mosque, or Temple Mount, a religious site disputed where there is often violence between Israeli police and Muslim worshippers. “We are the master of the house here,” Ben-Gvir said.
Now Ben-Gvir hopes Netanyahu will appoint him public security minister, whose duties would include maintaining order and providing access to the site – although Netanyahu has not announced his choice.
“Having someone who is going to, I’m afraid, play with matches, given this flammable real estate, I think is a real danger,” Makovsky said. “I think [Netanyahu is] will swim upstream if he feels he can normalize Itamar Ben-Gvir’s position.”
Netanyahu sought to allay fears, saying his government’s policy would be “responsible” without “unnecessary adventures”. Ben-Gvir said in a editorial Monday, “I matured, moderate.”
Danny Danon, a Netanyahu ally who hopes to be the next parliament speaker, says Israel will maintain good ties with the Biden administration because Netanyahu, not Ben-Gvir, will be in charge of that relationship.
“I think the whole Ben-Gvir question is overblown,” Danon told NPR. “We will lead the government, and we will take care of the important issues… and we have proven in the past that we can be responsible for many of the issues, both foreign and domestic issues.”
Other potential members of Netanyahu’s emerging government are religious fundamentalists who support weakening Israel’s Supreme Court and have shown hostility to LGBTQ rights and Palestinian citizens of Israel.
The Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, two major American Jewish groups, have expressed concern. So has a Democratic member of Congressand there is american news reports of high american officials raising the question too. And according to Israeli reportingThe UAE foreign minister also warned that the inclusion of some far-right politicians in the Israeli government could hurt their countries’ relations, even as Netanyahu hopes to strike more diplomatic deals with Arab countries .
Sara Greenberg, who served as Netanyahu’s adviser from 2018 to 2019 for foreign affairs and Jewish communities around the world, warned against allowing “extremism” in the next cabinet.
“Any move perceived as undermining the democratic and pluralistic nature of Israel will have a detrimental effect on Israel’s relationship with global Jewry, let alone the free world,” Greenberg told NPR. “The strength of Israeli democracy – and also his relationship with the world Judaism — hinges how government portfolios are assigned and how the coalition operates. »