Israeli government approves forming a national guard
April 2, 2023 10:59 PM
The Israeli government approved Sunday a decision to form a national guard, officials said, which opponents warn would function as a "private militia" of firebrand National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.
A statement from Ben-Gvir's office said the guard, which would operate under his ministry, would deal with "emergency scenarios, nationalistic crime, terror, and strengthening sovereignty".
It will be comprised of 1,800 members who will "bring back personal security" to Israelis, Ben-Gvir said in the statement relayed by his office.
More details about the guard's goals and authority will be issued by a committee within two months, the statement added.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office meanwhile said that a committee made up of members of "Israel's security agencies" would propose if the police commissioner "or another body" will be in charge of the guard.
The move was a condition set by Ben-Gvir to agree to freeze the government's controversial judicial reforms, following months of protest and a crippling general strike on Monday.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid slammed a separate government decision Sunday to cut budgets from all other ministries "to fund Ben-Gvir's private militia", calling it an "extremist fantasy of delusional people".
Former public security minister Omer Bar Lev, who had advanced the formation of such a force in 2022 as part of the border police, said it was already that force's responsibility to be dealing with the issues Ben-Gvir was tasking the national guard with.
"The thought that a private militia would be formed by an embarrassing minister who lacks understanding and was convicted of support of a terror group and incitement to racism is shocking," Bar Lev wrote of Ben-Gvir on Twitter.
In his youth, Ben-Gvir was charged more than 50 times for incitement to violence or hate speech, and convicted in 2007 of supporting a terror group and inciting racism.