Ben Gvir: A polarizing figure
Itamar Ben Gvir, Israel’s Minister of National Security, has been making recent headlines for his controversial views and actions. In the last election, his political party, Otzma Yehudit, had an unprecedented success where they doubled their votes from the 2022 Election. Now the third largest party in the Knesset with 14 seats and a major part of Bibi Netanyahu’s coalition, Ben Gvir has had more opportunity than ever to broadcast his rhetoric countrywide.
Many people credit the Religious Zionism movement’s boost in popularity to Ben Gvir since his polarizing statements have brought him a lot of attention from the media and the public. Ben Gvir, among others, believes that the government should legalize all Jewish settlements on the West Bank and reform Israel’s judicial system. His radical beliefs about Arabs’ position in Israel originated during the period of the First Intifada. Since then, he has been a part of many right-wing extremist groups, like Moledet, Kach, and Kahane Chai. He has a history of protesting decisions like the Oslo Accords and has been very candid with his criticism of left-wing activists for being ‘anti-Israel.’ He has been charged with crimes over fifty times and convicted of eight of them. Also, throughout his legal career he has chosen to represent extremists who have been charged with terrorism and hate crimes.
He has garnered heavy criticism for his public statements where he supported Israeli settlers in their disputes against Arabs. He has also been involved in various other controversial incidents, such as hanging a portrait of Kahane, an Israel-American terrorist, in his office and using his parliamentary immunity to visit the Temple Mount, a holy site in Jerusalem that is off-limits to most Jewish visitors. The United States, Israel’s biggest ally, denounced Ben Gvir’s actions, claiming that it was “unacceptable.” A major focus of his critiques is on his role as Minister of Defense. In an interview, Edud Olmert, Israel’s twelfth prime minister, directly stated that “The police are under the command of Ben Gvir, and Ben Gvir is a terrorist.” This sentiment is shared by many, who believe that Ben Gvir is using this position to create greater tension with the Arabs and to cause violence.
Despite his controversial actions, Ben Gvir is still a significant politician as he has a large following who believes him to be protecting the rights of Jews and defending the country.
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