The establishment of a national guard led by an ultranationalist Cabinet minister with a history of anti-Arab language and actions received preliminary approval from the Israeli cabinet of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday.
After postponing a controversial government plan to reform the judiciary last week to prevent National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir from leaving the coalition, Netanyahu agreed to press forward with force.
According to its detractors, the new force 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 the gaps where police are understaffed, such as in crime-ridden Arab communities, and address other issues.
The force is anticipated to cost millions of dollars and initially recruit hundreds of people. The recruits’ exact responsibilities and authority were unknown.
The establishment of the force was given approval by Netanyahu’s Cabinet, according to his office, but a committee made up of representatives from Israel’s existing security organizations will decide the guard’s authority and whether it will report to the police or directly to Ben-Gvir, as the latter demands.
It will take the committee 90 days to submit its recommendations.
After Arab-Jewish violence broke out in mixed-race communities in May 2021 during a battle with Hamas, the notion of a national guard was already in the works. But what has changed is Ben-determination Gvir to have it reported to him rather than to the police.
The deployment of the force coincides with escalating tensions between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which have resulted in one of the deadliest stretches in those regions in recent memory.
Hardline West Bank settler Ben-Gvir has engaged in actions that Palestinians perceive as provocations, including visiting a sensitive Jerusalem holy site, and the idea of a force dedicated to him is viewed by many as problematic.
Whether the proposal will be implemented is still up in the air. For the force to be officially recognized, the law needs to be changed, and in the past, Netanyahu has broken his commitments to his political allies.
According to Israeli media, the new guard is opposed by the existing police chief, Kobi Shabtai.
According to the sources, Shabtai wrote to Ben-Gvir and Netanyahu that the force was “needless” and would end up doing more harm than good because it would confuse residents and law enforcement.
Former police commander Moshe Karadi warned against giving a politician such authority on Saturday, speculating that Ben-Gvir might use it to organize a coup.
According to reports, other government ministers opposed reducing budgets to pay for the new force.
A robust anti-government protest movement that has been protesting the revamp for almost three months and has vowed to oppose the new guard was further stoked by Netanyahu’s decision to give Ben-Gvir the force.
Despite the makeover, tens of thousands demonstrated once more on Saturday night.
With their faces veiled and donning black uniforms, protesters on Saturday pretended to be mock recruits for Ben-force Gvir while yelling, “With blood, with fire, we’ll protect the tyrant.”
After Netanyahu removed his defense minister, who had persuaded the prime minister to postpone the revamp due to concerns about the harm to the military, tens of thousands of Israelis erupted in anger last week, and workers went on strike. In reaction to the uproar, Netanyahu halted the update.