Ben-Gvir oversteps mark by ordering police to act against demonstrators

Itamar Ben-Gvir (Mostafa Alkharouf - Anadolu Agency)

Middle East Monitor  /  January 12, 2023

Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has overstepped the mark of his authority by ordering the police to act against anti-government demonstrators, local media reported on Wednesday.

On Monday, the far-right extremist said that Israeli police should begin cracking down on anti-government demonstrators who block roads. “I am in favour of protests, but anyone who blocks roads and who gets wild needs to be arrested,” he told a meeting of his Otzma Yehudit party in the Knesset.

Israeli media said that the police bill, which gave Ben-Gvir authority over the force and was passed by the Knesset prior to the approval of the latest Benjamin Netanyahu coalition government, does not put the minister in charge of the police. He only has the power to steer general policies for police activities, which is much less power than he had wished for. The bill did not make any mention of the minister being authorized to give orders to police officers related to day-to-day operations.

According to Arabs48.com, the Hebrew version of The Times of Israel said that Ben-Gvir’s order “turned the police into a tool in the hands of the government to be used against its opponents.”

Moreover, the opposition Labor Party has filed an appeal against Ben-Gvir at the High Court. It accused him of “forming a political police agency acting for him, arresting demonstrators and using water cannon to suppress freedom of expression.”

The appeal claimed that the amendments to the Police Law “turn Israel into a police state where the police is an armed force serving certain political sides.” Any appeal to the High Court against Ben-Gvir’s order is likely to be accepted, added Arabs48.com, citing Israeli media.

Another far-right minister, Zvika Fogel, has called for opposition leaders and two former MKs to be arrested for “treason” this week. Concerns continue to be aired around the world about Israel’s political shift to the far right and the effect that this could have on the country’s claim to be “the only democracy in the Middle East.”

MEMO columnist Ramzy Baroud, however, has questioned whether Israel has ever actually been a democracy.