Far-right extremist gets job in Israeli security as coalition deals are reached | Israel

Far-right politician Itamar Ben-Gvir will serve as Israel’s national security minister under a coalition deal with Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, in what will likely be Israel’s most right-wing government. country’s history.

The deal comes after the prime minister-designate’s alliance won a comfortable victory in this month’s legislative elections, Israel’s fifth in less than four years.

Netanyahu is still in talks with three other parties on forming his new government.

“We have taken a big step [last night] towards a full coalition agreement, towards the formation of an all, all right-wing government,” Ben-Gvir said in a statement.

The leader of the Jewish Power party, who was convicted in 2007 of racist incitement against Arabs and support for a group considered by Israel and the United States to be a terrorist organization, will have an expanded security portfolio that will include responsibility border police in the occupied territories. West bank.

The PA Foreign Ministry said the appointment would have “a potentially catastrophic impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and hamper the resumption of negotiations between the two sides.

Mairav ​​Zonszein, a senior Israel analyst at International Crisis Group, said Ben-Gvir’s expanded security portfolio could be a game-changer in the West Bank, which is under the effective control of the Israeli military.

“Israel is increasingly transferring powers that were normally held by the Defense Ministry or the military to civilian ministries,” she said.

Granting Ben-Gvir authority over border policing in the West Bank “is a form of blurring the borders between Israel and the West Bank”, she added.

Israel seized the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem – areas the Palestinians claim as their state – in the 1967 Six-Day War. US-sponsored negotiations stalled in 2014 and Israeli settlement expansion has continued despite international opposition.

Hazem Qassem, a spokesman for the Islamist Hamas group that rules Gaza, said Ben-Gvir’s deal with Netanyahu meant Israel’s new government would be “more fascist and extreme”.

The Islamic Jihad militant group also predicted further tensions.

The deal, which gives Ben-Gvir a job in Israel’s security cabinet, comes after months of tension in the West Bank following a deadly military crackdown sparked by a series of deadly attacks by Palestinian militants in Israel.

This also comes a few days later a coordinated bomb attack on two bus stops in Jerusalem during which an Israeli-Canadian student was killed and at least 14 others were injured.

Ben-Gvir’s party will also take over the ministries in charge of development in the Negev and Galilee regions, the Ministry of Heritage, a post as deputy to the Ministry of Economy and the chairmanship of the public security commission of the Knesset.

As a settler living in the West Bank, Ben-Gvir has long been a vocal opponent of a Palestinian state. During the election campaign, he brandished a gun at Palestinian protesters in occupied East Jerusalem.

It also supports Jewish prayer at the al-Aqsa Mosque complex, a burning site sacred to Muslims and Jews, who know it as the Temple Mount. The site, believed to have once housed two ancient Jewish temples, has been the scene of repeated clashes between Muslims and Jewish visitors defying decades-old rules banning prayer for non-Muslims.

Ben-Gvir, a practicing lawyer, advocates capital punishment and looser open fire regulations for soldiers. But as his party has moved closer to the government, he has moderated some of his earlier positions and said he no longer supports the expulsion of all Palestinians, but only those he considers traitors or terrorists.

His rise prompted the US State Department to declare this month that Washington expects all officials of Israel’s new government to share the values ​​of an “open and democratic society, including tolerance and respect of all in civil society”.

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