The establishment of a national guard to be led by an ultranationalist Cabinet member with a history of anti-Arab language and actions, Ben-Gvir, received preliminary approval from the Israeli cabinet of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday.
After postponing a contentious government proposal to reform the court last week in an effort to prevent National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir from leaving the coalition, Netanyahu decided to press forward with the force.
The new force, according to its detractors, is essentially a personal militia for Ben-Gvir, a former far-right activist who has previously been found guilty of inciting hatred and supporting a Jewish terror organization. According to Ben-Gvir, the force is intended to fill in any gaps left by understaffed police departments, particularly in crime-ridden Arab neighborhoods where Arab-Jewish violence is a problem.
The force is anticipated to cost millions of dollars and initially recruit hundreds of people. The recruits’ exact responsibilities and authority were unknown.
Sunday, Netanyahu’s office said that his Cabinet had approved the force’s creation. However, the guard’s authority and whether it would be subordinate to the police or follow Ben-Gvir’s demands and take orders directly from him would be decided by a committee of Israel‘s existing security agencies, the office said. There are 90 days for the committee to make its recommendations.
A previous government had already come up with the idea of a national guard after Arab-Jewish violence broke out in mixed cities in May 2021 during the war with Hamas. However, the reason for the criticism is Ben-Gvir’s desire for it to answer to him rather than the police.
Ben-Gvir, a hardline settler in the West Bank, has done things that the Palestinians think are provocations on multiple occasions, like going to a sacred Jerusalem site. The idea of a force that is loyal to him is seen as problematic by many.
It is not yet clear whether the arrangement will be carried out. To become law, the force must be incorporated into existing legislation, and Netanyahu has previously broken his promises to his political partners.
According to Israeli media, Kobi Shabtai, the current police chief, opposes the new guard.
According to the reports, Shabtai stated in a letter to Ben-Gvir and Netanyahu that the force was “needless” and could cause more harm than good because it would confuse citizens and officers. Moshe Karadi, a former police chief, said on Saturday that it was risky to give such power to a politician, implying that Ben-Gvir could use it to stage a coup.
It is said that other ministers of the government also objected to the reduction of their budgets in order to provide funds for the new force.
A robust anti-government protest movement, which has been demonstrating against the overhaul for nearly three months and has pledged to oppose the new guard, was also energized by Netanyahu’s decision to grant Ben-Gvir the force. Even though the overhaul was put on hold, tens of thousands of people protested once more on Saturday night.
Safeguarding the Dictator
Nonconformists on Saturday spruced up as false enlists for Ben-Gvir’s power, wearing dark regalia with their faces covered and reciting “with blood, with fire, we’ll safeguard the dictator.”
After Netanyahu fired his defense minister, who had urged the prime minister to put the overhaul on hold due to concerns about the damage to the military, tens of thousands of Israelis spontaneously took to the streets and went on strike. In response to the demonstrations, Netanyahu halted the overhaul.