And Israel gives the green light to a “sectarian militia” of ultra-nationalists

Itamar Ben Gvir has already received the green light from Parliament for his National Guard. The Minister of Defense considered it “an important message for the residents of Israel and for personal security, a basic and necessary need for the State of Israel,” but the opposition warns of the danger of its transformation into “sectarian militia”. The leader of the ultra-nationalist Zionist formation “Jewish Force” will lead this new paramilitary body made up of elements from the border police, army reservists and civilian volunteers whose goal will be “intervention in emergency scenarios, national crime and combating terrorism, as well as strengthening sovereignty in areas that require it.”

According to the operational plan, which was published by the Israeli media, the Minister of Security will form a committee headed by a man he trusts, who will present, within two months, a plan for the structure of the new body, its chain of command and its budget. The Prime Minister’s Office, the ministries of defence, justice, economy, army and police will be represented on this committee. Initially, the number of troops could grow to 2,000 soldiers.

This National Guard is the price Benjamin Netanyahu paid for a month-long hiatus in approving judicial reform and was a key protagonist at Saturday’s massive demonstration in Tel Aviv. The various groups that had been coming thirteen weeks ago to protest the reform chose to dress up as hooded policemen and march through the streets to the sound of the Imperial March in Star Wars. Of the Movement for Good Government (MQG, for its English acronym) deplored that “Ben Gvir is clear about the point of having a political police force that serves his own interests and has taken the country hostage to achieve his goal.”

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Opposition from the chief of police

Farha bin Gvir and the rest of his coalition contradicted the chief police inspector’s opposition. Kobe Shabtai who published an open letter on Sunday saying the body was “totally unnecessary” and could lead to “serious consequences” for the country. They also warned the Public Prosecutor’s Office of “legal problems” that this force might entail.

Gadi Eisenkot, a former army chief who is currently part of the National Unity Party, also expressed his reservations and asked political leaders to pay attention to the negative opinion of the police. For Eisenkot, the formation of the National Guard is another example of “the absence of the judgment and responsibility of the prime minister and members of the government.”

Palestinian riots

Behind the radical minister’s plan was the wave of protests and clashes that erupted in mixed areas in Israel in May 2021, during the recent war on Gaza. The previous government then began deploying support forces to reduce violence between Jews and Muslims. Ben Gvir then criticized the role of the police for being “preoccupied with a thousand other things” and proposed the formation of a body “dedicated exclusively” to suppressing “riots” or pro-Palestinian protests by the country’s Arab minority, which represents 20 percent of Israel. This body is already a reality.

Palestinian lawmakers in the Israeli parliament, such as Ayman Odeh, took to Twitter to ask, “Why does the State of Israel, which already has an army, police, Shin Bet, Mossad, National Security Council, SWAT team, and border police, need a citizen to protect?” The same question asked by the tens of thousands of Israelis who demonstrate every week against the government.

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