Itamar Ben Gvir, the new hawk of the Israeli right, is the ally Netanyahu must align with to win the Nov. 1 election. It could also hurt him among moderate-right voters.
TEL AVIV CORRESPONDENCE — Israel’s far-right rising star Itamar Ben Gvir is likely to win as many as 14 seats in Israel’s 120-seat parliament, according to opinion polls. This would make Jewish Power, the entity led by Mr. Ben Gvir, third in the Knesset. Itamar Ben Gvir will then be in a privileged position to claim the high-level portfolio if other right-wing or conservative parties win enough votes to form a coalition government.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s party is expected to win about 25 seats, while opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party could win 31 seats, according to polls. According to the Israeli left, Itamar Ben Gvir is the equivalent of a Jewish Nazi. Raised in Mevasseret Zion, a small town outside Jerusalem, in a family of Iraqi Jews, Mr. Ben-Gvir joined the Kah as a teenager, an ultra-nationalist faction led by the American-born rabbi Meir Kahane, whom Mr. Ben-Gvir did not oppose.
“Kach”, a terrorist organization
Meir Kahane noted that it is impossible to live with Arabs in Israel, and advocated their expulsion and deprivation of citizenship. Israel’s highest court eventually barred Kahu from running for Knesset because of his racist intentions; Israel listed Kah as a terrorist organization in 1994. The United States also designated Kah as a terrorist organization until 2022, when it was declared inactive.
Mr. Ben-Gvir, a young activist, opposed the peace process. And some believe that he could have held the gun with which Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was killed in 1995.
Today, Itamar Ben Gvir has grown up and explains to his supporters that it is not necessary to shout “death to Arabs”, but “death to terrorists”. In 2019, he reportedly removed a poster of Kah member Baruch Goldstein, who shot and killed 29 Muslims in Hebron, from his living room wall.
Refocusing Ben Gwyr
Speaking to students at Blich High School in Ramat Gan on September 6, Ben Gvir said: “I am not advocating neither the death of Arabs nor the expulsion of all Arabs, but I have a problem with those who throw Molotov cocktails at us or injure IDF soldiers . I also have a problem with those in the Knesset who oppose our country. »
At the same famous event at Bleach High School, a student asked Ben Gwyr what he would do if his own son came out to him about his homosexuality. Ben Gwyr replied that he would hug him and assure him that he loved him and that he would always be his son.
Mr. Ben-Gvir’s natural district consists of clerics who live in settlements in the West Bank. Ben Gvir, as a lawyer, thus defended Amiram Ben-Uliel, found guilty of setting fire to the house of a Palestinian family, killing the couple and their 18-month-old child.
But if polls are to be believed, poor rural Jews are more likely to vote for him than they have traditionally voted for Likud or the orthodox Shas party.
Itamar Ben Gvir’s political success seems to be based on the Israelis’ growing fear of their Muslim countrymen. The anti-Jewish riots that erupted on the streets of Israel’s major cities last year have left deep scars, and now there are doubts in Israel about the integration of the Arab minority in the country.
It is no coincidence that one of Itamar Ben-Gvir’s campaign videos shows a frightened woman telling her husband in Hebrew on the phone that there are men with knives outside their apartment to kill her and their children. Everyone understands that “men” are Arabs. “It’s time to be the master of the house,” the ad says. “The time has come for Ben-Gvir.”