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Ben-Gvir Agrees to Netanyahu's Judicial Overhaul Delay in Exchange for Israeli National Guard

Israeli human rights organization warns the national guard proposal would result in 'a private, armed militia that would be directly under Ben-Gvir's control'

Source: Haaretz

Far-right party Otzma Yehudit said on Monday evening that they have struck an agreement with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to delay the judicial overhaul until after the Knesset recess in return for the establishment of a national guard under the control of National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

This came after the ultra-nationalist minister had threatened to resign over Netanyahu's announcement that he would shelve the legislation.

In an agreement published by the party, signed by Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir, the proposal for the national guard will be discussed in Sunday's cabinet meeting and the "necessary legislative corrections" will be made.

The national guard was not brought up during Netanyahu's address to the nation on Sunday evening.

Israel's oldest human rights organization, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, responded immediately by describing the proposed national guard as "a private, armed militia that would be directly under Ben-Gvir's control."

"This is a police force that will first and foremost act in mixed cities, first and foremost against the Arab population," the organization noted, adding that the proposal "will allow him to use these powers against the protest."

Early versions of the proposal included siphoning off Border Police officers to the national guard, as well as the recruitment of 10,000 additional volunteers, which will answer to Ben-Gvir.

Last week, Ben-Gvir told Netanyahu that he intends to vote against the state budget if it does not include funds for establishing a national guard.

As reported earlier in March, police have already established one of the first units of Israel's national guard proposed by National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir in the central Arab-Jewish city of Lod.

Citing material provided to the Knesset National Security Committee, Kan public broadcaster reported that it appears that the unit – comprised of several dozen civilians with military experience who would serve as a special alert squad – may be the first of several to be raised in mixed cities across the country.

Ben-Gvir's call for a national guard is, in fact, actually an expansion of a plan initiated by his predecessor, Omer Bar-Lev. Bar-Lev, alongside then-Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, had previously advanced and approved a government resolution to establish the unit.

It was, at the time, called the “Israeli Guard,” and was supposed to consist of several thousand volunteers who were to be trained by the Border Police. A senior police official said that over the past year, the organization had planned to recruit thousands of volunteers, but managed to induct only some 600 in reality.

In a press conference he held in January alongside Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, Ben-Gvir said the security establishment believes that “Guardian of the Walls 2” is imminent, referring to the May 2021 of the Gaza war, which led to riots in mixed Arab and Jewish cities within Israel, and called for the formation of a national guard, the "strengthening" of police, and for “doubling the manpower of the Border Police,” replete with significant pay raises for police personnel.

Senior Police figures have expressed doubt on Ben-Gvir’s plan to recruit ten thousand volunteers to the national guard. “It’s chicanery,” said a police source, adding that “it will end either in ineffectiveness or in a friendly fire incident and injured civilians. You can’t take grown people without training and put them in front of civilians in times of emergency. It could end in disaster.”