Ben Gvir to get newly created post of national security minister against Likud

Likud and Otzma Yehudit agreed Friday morning on the positions the far-right party will occupy in the new government, with Itamar Ben Gvir to fill the newly created post of national security minister – an expanded role from Minister of Public Security which includes oversight of the national government. police and border police in the West Bank.

The parties have signed an appendix to a coalition agreement, but not yet the full agreement itself, detailing the positions Otzma Yehudit will receive.

In addition to the Ministry of National Security, the party will also hold the modified portfolio of the Ministry of Development of the Negev, Galilee and National Fortitude (English translation not yet official); the heritage portfolio, via the function of deputy minister at the Ministry of the Economy; chairman of the Knesset Public Security Committee; and rotating chairmanship of the Special Committee of the Israeli Citizens Fund (which oversees state revenue from gas drilling).

The Negev and Galilee Ministry will be headed by Otzma Yehudit No. 2 Yitzhak Wasserlauf, and Amichai Eliyahu will assume the portfolio of the Department of Heritage.

The Negev and Galilee Ministry will receive an annual budget of 2 billion shekels (about $580 million) and will also be responsible for regulating new settlements in the West Bank.

MK Almog Cohen will be deputy economy minister and former IDF general Zvika Fogel will chair the public security committee. MP Limor Son Har-Melech will take Otzma Yehudit’s position on the gas royalty committee.

Almog Cohen (L) and Yitzhak Wasserlauf of Otzma Yehudit at the Knesset, November 21, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The agreement also includes an agreement to establish a large-scale national guard and the expansion of the mobilization of reserve troops in the border police.

Ben Gvir’s ministry will have control of the West Bank division of the Border Police, which currently reports to the Ministry of Defense with some input from the Ministry of Public Security.

The move means the far-right party leader will have control of Border Police troops involved in policing riots in the West Bank as well as clearing outposts.

There will also be an “Expanded Southern Law” that will allow thieves caught stealing weapons from military bases to be shot.

Last year, the army updated its rules of engagement to make it easier for soldiers to open fire on suspected arms thieves and smugglers, in an effort to suppress crime. It was not immediately clear what the impact of the legislative change would be.

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir arrive for the swearing-in ceremony for the new Knesset, at parliament in Jerusalem, November 15, 2022. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP)

In a statement, Ben Gvir said the deal was “a big step towards signing a full coalition agreement and establishing a full-fledged right-wing government”, and that he would join forces with previous agreements with Likud, such as official regulation of the West Bank hotspot. Homesh yeshiva and Evyatar outpost.

Earlier this week, two former senior police officials publicly warned that the anticipated changes in the relationship between the police and the public security minister (as the role is now known), demanded by Ben Gvir, could spell the end of Israeli democracy.

The deal with Otzma Yehudit signaled slow but steady progress by Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu in his efforts to form a coalition after this month’s elections, as he moved closer to concluding comprehensive agreements with Otzma Yehudit and the Haredi Shas party.

Protracted negotiations have dampened Netanyahu’s hopes of quickly forming a government after November 1 elections gave the bloc he leads a 64-seat majority in the 120-member Knesset. The talks have encountered obstacles due to the spiraling and sometimes competing demands of its partners.

According to Channel 12 news, the parties agreed to split the current Ministry of Development from the Periphery, Negev and Galilee, with Shas insisting on holding the “periphery” portfolio – often referring to towns. poorer outside the population centers of central Israel. – because he considers these localities to be a key part of his electoral base.

Meanwhile, Shas will receive the Home Office as well as the Health and Welfare portfolios.

Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri leaves a meeting with Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu at a hotel in Jerusalem on November 16, 2022. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

However, Deri’s eligibility to be a minister is currently under a big question mark after the attorney general said his recent bribery conviction could lead to a finding of moral turpitude, which would bar him from holding office. minister for seven years. Deri was handed a suspended 12-month prison sentence last year, but resigned from parliament before signing a plea deal allowing him to dodge a conviction for moral turpitude.

Shas and Likud are reportedly considering changing the law to allow the Shas leader, who served 22 months in prison from 2000 to 2002 for corruption, to return as minister.

Meanwhile, Likud talks with Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism appeared to stall.

Smotrich demanded either the Defense Ministry or the Treasury, and Netanyahu appears to have agreed in recent days to give him the latter for at least the first two years of government. Despite reported progress, talks with Smotrich continued to be mired in mutual accusations, with Religious Zionism claiming Netanyahu backtracked on his promises and Likud accusing the far-right party of making exaggerated demands in exchange for his loyalty to the nascent government.

In addition to the first two years in the finance ministry, Smotrich would have demanded the portfolios of immigrant settlement and absorption affairs, as well as the chairmanship of four of the 11 coalition-controlled Knesset committees.

Citing sources involved in the talks, Haaretz reported that Smotrich also demanded control of the state’s Jewish conversion system.

Likud leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu (L) speaks with Zionist religious party leader MK Bezalel Smotrich during the 25th Knesset swearing-in ceremony in Jerusalem, November 15, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Reports said Likud had agreed to hand Smotrich control of the Civil Administration — the part of the Defense Ministry that runs Area C in the West Bank, where all Israeli settlers and several thousand Palestinians live under civilian control. and Israeli military.

But in a lengthy statement released Wednesday following reports of progress in the talks, Religious Zionism accused Likud of constantly leaking “lies” to the press in coalition talks, alleging that Likud wanted to “trample, humiliate and marginalize” the party.

‘Things weren’t going well’ in more than a decade under Netanyahu, the party accused, and said he ‘promised it would be different this time’, referring to a list of his often sweeping claims about security, the judiciary, settlements, and religious issues.

Earlier Wednesday, Likud MK Yariv Levin, the party’s point man for coalition negotiations, reportedly said in private conversations that Smotrich’s demands to transfer parts of ministries under his control, such as the Civil Administration , would form “a government within a government”, classifying the demands as “delusional”.

Meanwhile, the second Haredi party in the potential coalition, United Torah Judaism, is expected to get the Ministry of Housing and Ministry of Social Equality expanded to include the Labor Department of the Ministry of Finance.

Moses Gafni of UTJ was appointed chairman of the Knesset’s temporary finance committee on Monday and the party also wants to control the labor, health, internal affairs and environment committees.

But the Haredi party has also complained of feeling left out of the negotiations.

Coalition negotiations between the parties have dragged on since Netanyahu received a 28-day mandate earlier this month to form a government, amid wrangling over nominations and legislative priorities. The mandate expires on December 11, but can be extended by two weeks.

Carrie Keller-Lynn and Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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