Far-right politician Itamar Ben-Gvir will be Israel’s national security minister in a coalition deal with Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party that is likely to be the most right-wing government in the country’s history.
The deal comes after the prime minister-designate’s alliance comfortably won parliamentary elections this month, Israel’s fifth in less than four years.
Netanyahu is still in talks with the other three parties to form his new government.
“We took a big step [last night] towards a full coalition agreement, to form a fully, fully right-wing government,” Ben-Gvir said in a statement.
The leader of the Jewish Power party, who was convicted in 2007 of racist incitement against Arabs and of supporting a group considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the US, will have an expanded security portfolio that will include responsibility for border policing in the occupied territories. Western Bank.
The Palestinian Authority’s foreign ministry said the appointment would have a “potentially catastrophic impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and prevent a revival of negotiations between the two sides.
Mairav Zonszein, senior Israel analyst at the International Crisis Group, said Ben-Gvir’s expanded security portfolio could be a “game changer” in the West Bank, which is under the effective control of the Israeli military.
“Israel is shifting more and more powers that were normally held by the defense ministry or the military to civilian ministries,” she said.
Giving Ben-Gvir authority over the border police in the West Bank “is a form of erasing the borders between Israel and the West Bank,” she added.
Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem – areas the Palestinians claim as their state – in the Six-Day War in 1967. US-sponsored negotiations stalled in 2014, and Israeli settlement expansion has continued despite international opposition.
Hazem Qassem, a spokesman for the Islamist group Hamas, which runs Gaza, said Ben-Gvir’s deal with Netanyahu meant the new Israeli government would be “more fascist and extreme”.
The militant group Islamic Jihad also predicted further tension.
The deal, which gives Ben-Gvir a position in Israel’s security cabinet, comes after months of tension in the West Bank following a deadly army crackdown sparked by a spate of deadly attacks by Palestinian militants in Israel.
It also comes days after the coordinated bombing of two bus stops in Jerusalem that killed an Israeli-Canadian student and injured at least 14 others.
Ben-Gvir’s party will also take over the ministries responsible for development in the Negev and Galilee regions, the Ministry of Heritage, the post of deputy in the Ministry of Economy and the chairmanship of the Knesset’s public security committee.
As a settler living in the West Bank, Ben-Gvir has long been a fierce opponent of Palestinian statehood. During the election campaign, he waved a gun at Palestinian protesters in occupied East Jerusalem.
It also supports Jewish prayers at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a holy flashpoint for both Muslims and Jews, who know it as the Temple Mount. The site, once home to two ancient Jewish temples, has been the scene of repeated clashes between Muslims and Jewish visitors who defied decades-old rules barring non-Muslims from praying there.
Ben-Gvir, a practicing lawyer, is pushing for the death penalty and looser open fire regulations for soldiers. But as his party has moved closer to governing, he has softened some of his earlier stances and says he no longer supports the expulsion of all Palestinians, but only those he considers traitors or terrorists.
His rise prompted the US State Department to say this month that Washington expects all officials in Israel’s new government to share the values of “an open, democratic society, including tolerance and respect for all in civil society”.