Incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and far-right Otzma Yehudit led by Itamar Ben-Gvir signed a coalition agreement on Friday giving Ben-Gvir the National Security Ministry with extended powers.
This is the first deal Netanyahu has signed with another party as part of the coalition negotiations following this month’s elections which saw his bloc winning the majority of votes. Likud will next need to reach similar agreements with Bezalel Smotrich’s far-right party Religious Zionism, and the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism in order to form a government.
As part of the agreement, Otzma Yehudit will receive three ministerial positions: The Public Security Minister, which will now go by the title National Security Minister (and have an expanded portfolio), as well as the Negev and Galilee Development Ministry and the Jewish Heritage Ministry.
The Public Security Ministry will be expanded as part of the deal, to include several enforcement authorities that were previously dispersed between different governmental offices. Among these is the Border Police in the West Bank – a military unit made up of 2,000 soldiers who receive training by the Border Police and whose duties include dealing with disturbances, carrying out arrests and evacuating illegal outposts – which until now was under the authority of the IDF’s Central Command.
A senior law enforcement source expressed concern about the move, saying that it effectively “turns the Border Police into Ben-Gvir’s personal police in the territories.”
However, the source added, placing the unit under the command of the National Security Ministry poses a legal problem: “By law, the IDF is the sovereign in the West Bank, and therefore nobody other than the Central Command chief or the IDF Chief of Staff has jurisdiction over any force operating there. This is like saying that the Paratroopers or the Golani Brigade are under the command of the Public Security Ministry, it’s impossible,” he said.
A senior Otzma Yehudit official dismissed this assessment, saying that “in practice, nothing will change,” and that the purpose of the deal was to “bring order to all of the [governmental] bodies.”
The Negev and Galilee Development Ministry will also be expanded, and responsibility for regulating outposts in the West Bank will be transferred to it.
- This civil society leader is ready to take the battle for Israeli democracy to the streets
- Likud attacks Smotrich for attempt to set up ‘government within a government’
- Netanyahu has left crumbs for Likud’s beggars
“We took an important step tonight to establish a full right-wing government,” Ben-Gvir said after the signing. “I am happy that the agreement allows Otzma Yehudit to realize our election promises – for the security and strengthening of the Negev, the Galilee and the periphery,” he added.
Ben-Gvir went on to call on all right-wing parties to work together to form a “fully right wing government as a soon as possible.”
Likud MK and Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin said: “I welcome the signing of the agreement with Otzma Yehudit, which is the first agreement on the way to establishing a stable right-wing government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu that will lead the State of Israel for years to come.”
Outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz addressed news of the agreement on Facebook, accusing Benjamin Netanyahu of “creating a private army for Ben-Gvir in the West Bank” adding that Netanyahu’s action constitutes “an admission that the real prime minister is going to be Ben-Gvir.”
Former IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot called Ben-Gvir's appointment to National Security Minister “a sad joke on the backs of the citizens of Israel.” In a Facebook post, Eisenkot described the move as part of “negotiation games in which new titles are made up for political purposes, with no connection to reality or to the country’s needs.”