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Far-right Ben-Gvir becomes Israel’s national security minister | KAMR

JERUSALEM (AP) — Extremist politician Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has a long history of anti-Arab rhetoric and stunts, will become Israel’s next national security minister, according to the first of several coalition deals expected to be struck by the former Likud party Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Likud announced on Friday the agreement with Ben-Gvir’s Jewish power party.

Negotiations with three other potential far-right and ultra-Orthodox coalition partners are ongoing. If successful, Netanyahu would return to the post of prime minister and head the most right-wing and religious government in Israel’s history.

The assignment of the delicate role to Ben-Gvir raises concerns about a further escalation of Israeli-Palestinian tensions. Ben-Gvir and his allies hope to grant immunity to Israeli soldiers who shoot at Palestinians, deport rival lawmakers and impose the death penalty on Palestinians convicted of attacking Jews.

Ben-Gvir is the student of a racist rabbi, Meir Kahane, who was banished from Parliament and whose Kach party was branded a terrorist group by the United States before being assassinated in New York in 1990.

Ahead of Israel’s Nov. 1 elections, Ben-Gvir made headlines with his anti-Palestinian speeches and stunts, including brandishing a pistol and encouraging police to open fire on Palestinian rock-throwers in a tense Jerusalem neighborhood.

Before becoming a lawyer and entering politics, he was convicted of, among other things, inciting racism and supporting a terrorist organization.

In his new role, he would be responsible for the police, among other things, which would allow him to implement some of the tough measures against the Palestinians that he has been campaigning for for years.

As part of the coalition deal, the current Ministry of Homeland Security would be renamed the Ministry of National Security and given increased powers, the Likud said on Friday.

As head of the ministry, Ben-Gvir would oversee the police and paramilitary border police who operate alongside Israeli soldiers in Palestinian population centers.

Likud MP Yaron Levin hailed the deal, which was signed on Thursday, as “the first deal on the road to forming a stable right-wing government led by Benjamin Netanyahu.”

Ben-Gvir first entered parliament in 2021 after his Jewish Power party merged with the Religious Zionism party. Ben-Gvir’s closest political ally, religious Zionist leader Bezalel Smotrich, is conducting separate negotiations with the Likud, which emerged as the largest party in the elections.

Netanyahu has resisted some of the demands, such as Smotrich aiming for the defense ministry. Talks are currently focusing on the terms under which Smotrich would become finance minister.

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