As protests over Israel’s controversial plan to overhaul the Supreme Court is still ongoing, the Knesset approved this Sunday a plan proposed by Israel’s security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, to create a ‘national guard’ potentially to crack down more protests.
On this Sunday, and in line with extreme policies taken by the far-right government in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office issued a statement and said that the cabinet approved the establishment of a ‘national guard’.
It is expected that a committee comprised of Israel’s existing security agencies would, in 90 days, determine the guard’s authorities and whether it would be subordinate to the Israeli police or take orders directly from Ben-Gvir, as he demanded so. A statement from Ben-Gvir’s office said that the national guard, which would operate under his ministry, would deal with “emergency scenarios, nationalistic crime, terror, and strengthening sovereignty”.
Under Ben-Gvir’s plan, the unit is to work alongside the police and military and deal with “civil unrest”, such as the “disturbances” or pro-Palestinian protests that occurred in mixed Jewish-Arab areas during the Gaza war of that erupted back in May 2021.
Therefore, the main objective of the new police force appears to be tackling internal violence created by Palestinians. However, many political rivals believe that the move is indeed a reaction to recent protests by the Israeli people against the controversial Supreme Court overhaul plan, and is aimed at cracking down demonstrations of the Israelis.
Several ministers initially opposed Ben-Gvir’s proposal, but they finally gave their consent to it at the insistence of Netanyahu, Israeli media reports said on Sunday, adding that the budget for the project is around $276m. The initiative was proposed last week on Saturday, when Netanyahu agreed to bring Ben-Gvir’s national guard for cabinet approval. Hundreds of Israeli people gathered in central Tel Aviv to protest against the proposal the same day.
Opposition figures lash out at Ben-Gvir and his ‘private militia’ plan
Opposition leader Yair Lapid was among the first known figures to criticize Ben-Gvir’s national guard initiative. In a series of tweets on Sunday, Lapid called the government’s decision an “extremist fantasy of delusional people” and slammed a separate decision to cut budgets from other ministries “to fund Ben-Gvir’s private militia”.
He also wrote that “the priorities of the government are ridiculous and despicable. The only thing that keeps it busy is running over democracy and promoting extreme fantasies of delusional people”.
Other critics also expressed worries and warned that Ben-Gvir could use this so called ‘national guard’, comprised of around 2,000 troops, specifically for oppressing the Palestinians and Arab population in Palestine as well as against antigovernmental demonstrators of Israeli people.
David Tzur, former district commander of the Tel Aviv police force, addressed the idea and said this Sunday that there is no need for such a separate force. We cannot accept that there will be any kind of law enforcement which is not under … the police commissioner. It is very strange that the government would decide to create another police [unit], and the sense that it would be a private militia or it would be parallel to the existing forces … it would be a disaster,” Tzur said, adding that “I think we need to strengthen the existing police force”.
Former Israel’s army chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot also rebuked Ben-Gvir and said the formation of a body directly subordinate to the national security minister was a “severe event that destabilizes the principles of using force in the country and endangers the country”.