Netanyahu Signs Coalition Deal Ushering in Ben-Gvir As New National-Security Minister

Israel’s likely incoming prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has made a coalition agreement with Otzma Yehudit to give its leader, Itamar Ben-Gvir, the newly created position of national-security minister.

The position will be a beefed-up version of the public-security minister’s, including oversight of the border police as well as the national police force, the Times of Israel reported on Friday morning.

“We took a big step tonight toward a full coalition agreement, toward forming a fully, fully right-wing government,” said Ben-Gvir in a statement following the conclusion of the deal with Netanyahu’s Likud. Ben-Gvir’s inclusion in the new government has rattled many international observers who fear that it marks a deep far-right drift across the Israeli political scene.

Ben-Gvir is an outspoken supporter of Kahanism, an ideology based on the views of Meir Kahane, an American-born Orthodox rabbi and former member of the Israeli legislature who was assassinated in 1990. Kahane is the founder of the Israeli political party Kach (which was banned in 1994) and the militant Jewish Defense League (JDL): an FBI-designated terrorist group in the United States. The group’s vision once included expelling Arabs from Israel. Ben-Gvir kept a picture of Baruch Goldstein, the terrorist who killed Muslim worshippers at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron in 1994 — and a member of the JDL — on his desk for years.

According to the agreement, Ben-Gvir’s portfolio will include border police stationed in the West Bank. This will put Ben-Gvir, a staunch supporter of Israeli settlements in the internationally contested territory, in charge of responding to terrorist attacks and defending Jewish communities.

On Wednesday, Ben-Gvir visited the site of a Palestinian bomb attack on a Jerusalem bus. In a statement that will likely set the tone for his tenure, he asserted, “Even if it’s in the West Bank, lay siege to them and go from house to house in search of guns and restore our deterrence power.”

Negotiations between Netanyahu and other potential coalition members remain outstanding.

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