Israeli far-right politician Ben-Gvir joins Israeli coalition

Israeli far-right politician Ben-Gvir joins Israeli coalition

According to the first of several coalition deals struck by the former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, Israeli extremist politician Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has a long history of anti-Arab rhetoric and stunts.

On Friday, Likud announced an agreement with Ben-Gvir's Jewish Power party. Three other potential far-right and ultra-Orthodox coalition partners are still in negotiations. If successful, Netanyahu would return to the prime minister's office and preside over the most rightwing and religious government in Israel s history.

The awarding of such a sensitive role to Ben-Gvir raises concerns of further escalation in Israeli-Palestinian tensions. Ben-Gvir and his allies hope to give Israeli soldiers immunity to Israeli soldiers who shoot at Palestinians, deport rival lawmakers and impose the death penalty on Palestinians convicted of attacks on Jews.

Ben-Gvir is a disciple of a racist rabbi, Meir Kahane, who was banned from parliament and whose Kach party was branded a terrorist group by the US before he was assassinated in New York in 1990.

Ahead of Israel's election on November 1, Ben-Gvir received headlines for his anti-Palestinian speeches and stunts, including brandishing a pistol and encouraging police to open fire on Palestinian stone-throwers in a already tense Jerusalem neighbourhood.

Before entering politics, he was convicted of inciting racism and supporting a terrorist organisation.

In his new position, Ben-Gvir would be in charge of the police, enabling him to implement some of the hardline policies against the Palestinians he has advocated for for years.

The ministry of internal security would be renamed as the ministry of national security and given expanded powers, as part of the coalition deal, Likud said on Friday.

Ben-Gvir would oversee the police and the military border police that operate alongside Israeli soldiers in Palestinian population centres.

The agreement signed on Thursday by the Likud lawmaker Yaron Levin was praised as the first agreement on the way to establishing a stable rightwing government led by Benjamin Netanyahu Ben-Gvir, who entered parliament in 2021 after his Jewish Power party merged with the Religious Zionism party. Ben-Gvir's closest political ally, the Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich, is leading separate negotiations with Likud, which emerged as the largest party in the election.

Netanyahu balked at some of the demands, such as Smotrich seeking the defence ministry. There was a focus on the terms under which Smotrich would become finance minister.