Israeli lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir refers to his Arab colleagues as “terrorists,” wanting to deport his political opponents.
His beliefs were so extremist in childhood that the IDF barred him from serving in the army.
Nonetheless, the populist politician previously on the periphery of Israeli politics is now racing ahead in the polls ahead of the November elections.
He has former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s support and is poised to emerge as a vital force that might drive the onetime premier back to power.
Ben-Gvir’s-meteoric ascension is the result of years of hard work by the media-savvy legislator to achieve legitimacy.
However, it also reflects a rightward shift in the Israeli population, which has mainstreamed their religious, ultranationalist worldview and all but destroyed dreams of Palestinian independence.
“I’ve been on a quest to save Israel for the last year,” Ben-Gvir recently told reporters.
“Millions of citizens want a true right-wing government.” “Now is the moment to give them one.”
Ben-Gvir, 46, has been a staple of Israel’s extreme right for over two decades, rising to prominence as a pupil of the late radical rabbi Meir Kahane in his teens.
He rose to prominence by notoriously breaking a hood ornament off then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s automobile in 1995.
“We got to his car, and we’ll get to him,” he said weeks before Rabin was murdered by a Jewish fanatic hostile to his peace efforts with the Palestinians.
Kahane’s extreme anti-Arab rhetoric, which included calls to ban Jewish-Arab marriage and the wholesale expulsion of Palestinians, was so offensive that Israel barred him from parliament.
The United States designated his party as a terrorist organization. In 1990, Kahane was killed in New York by an Arab assailant.
But, owing to Ben-Gvir, his followers and some of his ideas have made their way into the Israeli mainstream in recent years.
He entered politics last year after working as a lawyer for radical Jewish West Bank settlers.