Gantz criticized Netanyahu for appointing Ben Gvir as national security minister

Outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Friday that prime ministerial candidate Benjamin Netanyahu is allowing far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir to become prime minister. de factoIn the next government after Likud, the prime minister signed an agreement with the Otzma Yehudit party of the hardline politician giving him a broad security role.

The agreement signed a few hours ago reflects the positions and powers that Otzma Yehudit will take in the next government. Ben Gvir will take the new title of minister of national security and will be in charge of the national police, in addition to overseeing the border police station in the West Bank.

Until now, this unit has been subordinated to the Ministry of Defense and the Israeli army’s Central Command, while the Ministry of Internal Security has enjoyed only limited involvement.

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The move means the far-right party leader will be in charge of Border Patrol agents involved in policing riots in the West Bank, as well as clearing settlements he has long supported.

Gantz said, “He’s building a special army for Ben Gvir [Cisjordanie] is dangerous… and will create real security gaps.”

The outgoing minister also warned that Netanyahu had announced his decision to transfer control of the Civil Administration — the Defense Ministry body that regulates aspects of civilian life in about 60 percent of the West Bank — to the Finance Ministry of the leader of the HaTzionut HaDatit party. Bezalel Smotrich, who is expected to lead, will face international criticism for Israel’s continued “de facto annexation” of the West Bank.

“The agreement between Ben Gvir and Netanyahu is the direction of the next government – the division of government powers into ministries divided according to political needs; and dismantling operational personnel within the IDF will undermine the functionality of soldiers and police,” Gantz wrote in comments published Friday.

“Netanyahu’s behavior suggests that the real prime minister will, in fact, be Ben Gvir,” he added.

Outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz during a memorial service for soldiers killed in the Yom Kippur War, at Mount Herzl, October 6, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90/File)

In addition to the Ministry of National Security, Otzma Yehudit will head an expanded version of the Ministry of Negev and Galilee Development, the newly created Ministry of Heritage, the Knesset Internal Security Committee, the Knesset’s special committee on the Israel Civic Foundation (which oversees the state). income from gas drilling), in addition to receiving the position of Deputy Minister of Economy.

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

The Ministry of Heritage will be created from the division of the current Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs. According to the Ynet news site, Treasury officials have long considered the office unnecessary, given that Jerusalem has a municipality and that heritage research already falls under the Ministry of Education.

According to Ynet, the split will cost Israeli taxpayers more than 60 million shekels a year, and a quarter of a billion shekels over four years.

The Negev and Galilee Development Ministry will receive an annual budget of 2 billion shekels and will also be responsible for regulating new settlements in the West Bank.

MK Almog Cohen will be the Deputy Minister of Economy, and former IDF General Zvika Fogel will chair the Internal Security Committee. MK Limor Son Har-Melech will take over from Otzma Yehudit as the rotating chairman of the gas royalty commission.

The agreement signed between “Likud” and “Otzma Yehudit” also envisages the creation of a large-scale national guard and the extension of the mobilization of reserve troops in the border police.

There would also be an “extended Southern law” that would allow people caught stealing guns from military bases to be shot.

Last year, the army updated its rules of engagement to make it easier for soldiers to fire on suspected gun thieves and smugglers in an effort to fight crime. The impact of this legislative change has not yet been announced.

Otzma Yehudit councilor Chanamel Dorfman, right, and Likud MK Yariv Levin sign the coalition agreement, November 25, 2022. (Courtesy)

The coalition agreement was signed by Otzma Yehudit councilor Chanamel Dorfman and Likud MK Yariv Levin. Described by Ben Gvir as his “right-hand man,” Dorfman helped found an organization that provided financial support to Jews convicted of terrorism, including Yigal Amir, the assassin of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Footage released by Channel 12 in 2013 shows Dorfman as a groom at a “knife wedding,” where he and other attendees wave knives while dancing to songs about revenge attacks on Palestinians.

Otzma Yehudit adviser Chanamel Dorfman dances with a knife at her wedding in 2013. (Channel 12)

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has also expressed concerns about Ben Gvir’s expanded authority in the West Bank.

“We are taking the most serious view of the disastrous consequences of the conflict-related agreements, especially the consequences of Netanyahu’s mandate to Ben Gvir regarding the occupied Palestinian territories,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

“The Ministry reiterates its warning about the consequences of these agreements on efforts to restore calm, especially as armed settler militias have already begun to form military formations, given that the results of the Israeli elections may support and encourage this behavior. Committing crimes against Palestinian citizens,” he added.

The deal with Otzma Yehudit is evidence of Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s slow but steady progress in his efforts to form a coalition since the last parliamentary elections.

Protracted negotiations dashed Netanyahu’s hopes of forming a government quickly after November 1 elections, which would have given his bloc a 64-seat majority in the 120-member Knesset. Negotiations have been hampered by the growing and sometimes conflicting demands of its partners.

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Otzma Yehudite leader Itamar Ben Gvir arrive at the inauguration of the New Knesset, Jerusalem, November 15, 2022. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via PA)

Channel 13 reported that Shas is expected to sign an agreement with Likud on Sunday, followed by United Torah Judaism. The channel said there are still difficulties with Smotrich’s HaTzionout HaDatit party, which wants to gain greater control over settlements in the West Bank.

Smotrich asked to head either the Ministry of Defense or the Ministry of Finance. Netanyahu agreed in recent days to give him the latter, at least for the first two years of government. Despite the reported progress, talks with Smotrich have been plagued by mutual recriminations, with HaTzionout HaDatit claiming Netanyahu has reneged on promises and Likud accusing the far-right party of making exaggerated demands in return for its loyalty to the fledgling government.

In addition to his first two years at the Finance Ministry, Smotrich would claim the portfolios of Settlement Affairs and Immigration and Absorption, as well as the chairmanship of four of the eleven coalition-controlled Knesset committees.

According to sources involved in the negotiations, Ha’aretz Smotrich also stated that the state was trying to control the system of conversion to Judaism.

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

Channel 12 said Netanyahu is unlikely to be able to form a coalition next week because he has yet to pass a law allowing twice-convicted Shas leader Aryeh Deri to become a minister. Current legislation prohibits persons convicted of crimes from serving as ministers or deputy ministers unless authorized by the Central Election Commission.

Netanyahu will also have to pass legislation to expand Ben Gvir’s powers as national security minister.

The Likud leader has until December 11 to form a new government, but he can ask for a 14-day extension if he fails to do so in time.

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