Estimated reading time 3 minutes 3 Min

Israel’s Ben-Gvir, in leaked audio, cautious on advancing far-right agenda

A far-rightist on track to a key post in Israel’s incoming government has warned his party not to try to move too quickly with its agenda, saying in a
recording leaked on Sunday that some planned legislation could backfire.

November 28, 2022
By Dan Williams
28 November 2022

By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM, Nov 27 (Reuters) – A far-rightist on track to
a key post in Israel’s incoming government has warned his party
not to try to move too quickly with its agenda, saying in a
recording leaked on Sunday that some planned legislation could
backfire.

Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu last week
promised Jewish Power leader Itamar Ben-Gvir the National
Security Ministry, a newly created portfolio with powers over
police in Israel and the occupied West Bank.

The ascent of Ben-Gvir, a West Bank settler whose record
includes 2007 convictions for incitement against Arabs and
support for a Jewish group on the Israeli and U.S. terrorist
watchlists, has stirred concern at home and abroad.

But Ben-Gvir, now a lawyer, says his positions have become
more moderate. They include expulsion for those he deems
terrorists or traitors – rather than Arabs en masse – and looser
open-fire regulations for troops facing Palestinian unrest.

Israel’s Army Radio aired a recording from a Jewish Power
meeting in which one lawmaker discusses a proposed bill for
deporting those who voice solidarity with militants.

Ben-Gvir responds: “Let’s say that tomorrow morning … a
family member comes along and praises the action of Doctor
Goldstein – then they should be thrown of out the country?”

That referred to Baruch Goldstein, a settler who identified
with the ultranationalist Jewish group Kach and massacred
Palestinians in a West Bank mosque in 1994. The attack prompted
Israel to outlaw Kach, to which Ben-Gvir also once belonged.

“Every bill you propose has very, very broad consequences
and impacts,” Ben-Gvir says in the recording. “If you know what
the impacts are and you know what needs to be done – I’m with
you. But first, everything must be understood.”

Queried by Army Radio, he verified the recording.

Ben-Gvir’s appointment – which a Channel 12 TV poll found
49% of Israelis would support, while 46% were opposed – awaits
the finalisation of a government with a parliamentary majority.

Noam, a party that promotes stringent Jewish law, became the
second coalition partner to Netanyahu’s conservative Likud on
Sunday, netting him 39 of the Knesset’s 120 seats so far.

Palestinians have scorned Ben-Gvir’s circumspection.

“Ben-Gvir wants to move from being a rowdy, law-breaking,
racist and terrorist to a man who possesses official
responsibilities so he can turn this racism and hatred into
official government policy, through the positions he would
assume,” said Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki.

Since his deal with Likud, Ben-Gvir has also refused to be
drawn on past calls to end an Israeli police ban on Jewish
prayer at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque compound, which Jews revere
as the vestige of their two ancient temples. Palestinians and
Jordan regard Jewish prayer there as a provocation.

Pressed by Israel’s Kan radio on Sunday, he said only that
he would “do everything possible to prevent bigoted policies on
the Temple Mount”, using a biblical name for the site.
(Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah; Editing by
Mark Heinrich and Hugh Lawson)

More in Top Stories