Extremist politician Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has a long record of violent anti-Arab rhetoric and behaviour, will become Israel's next minister of national security, according to the first of what are expected to be several coalition deals struck by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party.
Likud announced the agreement with Ben-Gvir's Jewish Power party on Friday.
Negotiations with three other potential far-right and ultra-Orthodox coalition partners are ongoing. If successful, Netanyahu would return to the prime minister's office and preside over the most right-wing government in Israel's history.
The awarding of the sensitive role to Ben-Gvir raises concerns of a further escalation in Israel's occupation and control over Palestinians in the country. Ben-Gvir and his allies hope to grant immunity to Israeli soldiers who shoot at Palestinians, deport rival lawmakers and impose the death penalty on Palestinians convicted of attacks on Jews.
Ben-Gvir is the disciple of a racist rabbi, Meir Kahane, who was banned from Parliament and whose Kach party was branded a terrorist group by the United States before he was assassinated in New York in 1990.
Ahead of Israel's November 1 election, Ben-Gvir grabbed headlines for his anti-Palestinian speeches and stunts, including encouraging police to open fire on Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem, who were throwing stones during a confrontation with Israeli settlers and police, as well as pulling a pistol on the residents of the neighbourhood.
'Establishing a stable right-wing government'
Before becoming a lawyer and entering politics, Ben-Gvir was convicted of offenses that include inciting racism and supporting a Jewish terrorist organisation.
In his new role, he would be in charge of the police, among other things, enabling him to escalate hard-line policies against Palestinians that he has advocated for years.
As part of the coalition deal, the current Ministry of Internal Security would be renamed Ministry of National Security and would be given expanded powers, the Likud party said Friday.
As head of the ministry, Ben-Gvir would oversee the police and the paramilitary border police who operate alongside Israeli soldiers in Palestinian population centers.
Likud party lawmaker Yariv Levin praised the agreement, which was signed Thursday, as “the first agreement on the way to establishing a stable right-wing government led by Benjamin Netanyahu."
Ben-Gvir first entered parliament in 2021, after his Jewish Power party merged with the Religious Zionism party. Ben-Gvir's closest political ally, Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich, is conducting separate negotiations with the Likud party, which emerged as the largest party in the elections.
Netanyahu hesitated at some of the demands, such as Smotrich seeking the defense ministry. Talks currently focus on the terms under which Smotrich would become finance minister.