A recent plan to create an Israeli national guard under the leadership of National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has raised fears about the threat to Palestinians and the future of security in the country.
The plan was part of an agreement between Benjamin Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir, who threatened to quit after the prime minister blocked a controversial plan to reform the judiciary after weeks of mass protests brought the country to a standstill stopped on monday.
Ben-Gvir agreed to the delay because it allowed him to create a national guard that would be loyal to his ministry.
“It is clear that Netanyahu’s political position is extremely weak,” Yonatan Touval, an analyst at the Israel Institute for Regional Foreign Policies (Mitvim), said after the decision on the national guard.
“His poll numbers are lower than ever, and his own party is very resentful of him,” said Touval, speaking to Middle East Eye.
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A survey published on Tuesday found that if elections were held today in Israel, Netanyahu and his coalition would likely lose. His Likud party, Religious Zionism, Shas and United Torah Judaism would fall short of the 61 seats needed for a majority in the 120-seat parliament.
Critics fear that a decision to create a national guard under the direct control of the already powerful Ben-Gvir could undermine the country’s security.
After the decision, former Israeli police chief Moshe Karadi said that Ben-Gvir has formed a private militia for his political needs. He is dismantling Israel’s democracy.”
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In June 2021, the previous Israeli government approved a plan to create a national guard composed of active and reserve officers and volunteers trained by the Border Police.
The plan was created after riots between Jews and Palestinians within Israel in May of that year, but it was never implemented.
Ben-Gvir has long supported the creation of a national guard and wants “to have a paramilitary force directly under his command that he can deploy in mixed Arab-Israeli towns within Israel,” Touval said.
“It goes without saying that the law and order enforcement force would focus on Arab residents whenever tension and violence arise,” Touval said.
Ben-Gvir has already told the police to crack down harder on the anti-government protests that have gripped the country since January.
The Society for Civil Rights in Israel said: “We have already seen what happened when Ben-Gvir tried to suppress the protests; now one can only imagine what will happen when he has his own militia. “
Palestinian citizens are likely to fear Israel and those living in the occupied territories, as it is likely that it could be used against them.
“If Kahanist Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is a convicted felon, is given a private militia, it will likely be a new low for Palestinian human security throughout the occupied Palestinian Territories,” said Robert Andrews, the public relations officer at the human rights NGO. the European Forum.
‘The decision to grant a private militia to fascist Ben-Gvir will certainly help his clear agenda against Palestine’
– Robert Andrews, EuroPal Forum
Rabbi Meir Kahane was an Israeli-American who led a far-right group that gave rise to Kahanism, an extremist Zionist religious worldview based on Jewish supremacy.
Ben-Gvir’s Jewish Power party has in the past fought Kahanist ideology and is an important coalition member in Netanyahu’s ruling coalition.
“The decision to grant a private militia to fascist Ben-Gvir will certainly help his clear anti-Palestinian agenda,” Andrews told MEE.
In the last few months, Ben-Gvir has already introduced a series of draconian measures against Palestine.
In February, the Israeli parliament passed the first phase of a bill, introduced by the Jewish Power Party, to stop funding unnecessary medical treatment for Palestinians in Israeli prisons.
Since joining Netanyahu’s government late last year, the security minister has vowed to crack down on the treatment of Palestinian prisoners, who he says are being treated too well.
Ben-Gvir also ordered that bakeries run by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons will be closed and that the detainees will only be given a four-minute shower.
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“With a private militia now under his full control, it is already clear – according to his statements so far – that Ben-Gvir will use the group to further legitimize settler violence against the Palestinian people under the guise of ‘protecting the law and the order’, ” said Andrews.
“The Hilltop Youth, [an extremist religious-nationalist settler group]terrorism and already regularly attack Palestinian civilians and property with impunity,” he said.
Despite such concerns, Touval said the decision to form a national guard is likely to be made in the courts and he is not sure Ben-Gvir has control over it.
“The establishment of such a force is likely to lead to legal challenges, especially if, as the latest plan states, the national guard is to be separate and independent from the police and subordinate to the Ministry of National Security and its attention, Ben-. Gvir himself,” said Touval.