That period saw particularly violent clashes between Palestinian citizens and Jews of Israel in mixed cities across the country. It also helped launch the political career of extremist settler and national security minister Itamar Ben Gvir, the right-wing proponent of the national guard force.
Netanyahu endorsed Ben Gvir’s national guard proposal last week, in exchange for the minister’s support amid a national crisis over plans to restructure Israel’s judiciary. Ben Gvir, a member of Netanyahu’s ruling coalition, backed the prime minister’s decision to freeze the judicial reform package.
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The legislation, which could give the government a greater say in judicial appointments, including to the Supreme Court, has sparked widespread opposition from a cross-section of Israeli society. In the three months since he took office, Netanyahu’s government, cobbled together with once fringe ultra-nationalist and ultra-conservative religious parties, has led to a period of national division and security crisis, defense officials say.
On March 26, Netanyahu fired Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant after he publicly opposed plans for judicial reform. Now the government of Israel is proposing major budget cuts to fund Ben Gvir’s guard, including a reallocation of one billion shekels, or $277 million, from all other ministries. The government will also cut some $85 million from the Defense Ministry, which has the largest state budget.
“They will cut funding for (to) health, education, security, all to finance a private army of thugs for this Tik Tok clown,” said opposition leader Yair Lapid. saying by Ben Gvir in a video statement. “The only thing keeping this government busy is trampling democracy and promoting extremist fantasies of delusional people.”
Ben Gvir, a former settler activist and lawyer accused of violently attacking Palestinians, has been convicted dozens of times on charges including supporting terrorist organizations and anti-Palestinian incitement. Until 2020, he hung in his house a portrait of an Israeli gunman who killed 29 Palestinians in a West Bank mosque in 1994.
For years he has spoken about the need for a national guard under his command, saying a force made up of regular armed forces and volunteers could be deployed during high-intensity emergencies like the violent riots of 2021.
According to the prime minister’s office, a committee will discuss the jurisdiction, responsibilities and chain of command of the national guard and submit recommendations to the cabinet within 90 days.
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In a letter made public on Sunday, Israeli Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai called the move to form a national guard “unnecessary, with extremely high costs that may harm the personal security of citizens.”
It also risks “causing serious damage to the country’s internal security systems,” Shabtai said. He was not allowed to attend Sunday’s cabinet discussion, Israeli media reported.
Israeli Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara also told government officials that the proposal faces legal hurdles. The police, he said, “should and can deal with security problems without the need for an additional agency.”
In an interview with the Israeli news site Ynet, former Defense Minister Benny Gantz also criticized Ben Gvir and the National Guard proposal.
“I very much hope that Israel is saved from this problem, which is called Itamar Ben Gvir in the national security ministry,” he said, adding that the minister was unaware of the complexity, professional commitment and years required to create a National Guard.
The country, he said, faces “an attack on the holy of holies: the security of the State of Israel.”