Middle East Monitor / August 12, 2023
The ongoing differences between Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir have become public, with accusations exchanged between them over the establishment of a new security agency.
Israel’s Channel 12 reported that Gallant sent a sharply worded letter on Thursday to Ben-Gvir, in which he expressed his opposition to the establishment of the National Guard as a separate body to the police.
Gallant criticized: “The establishment of a new security agency will cause great difficulties and fragment the entire security system. There is no place for private militias in Israel.”
In March, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to Ben-Gvir’s request to establish a National Guard under his authority.
At the time, the opposition warned that the decision amounted to establishing a private militia or a private army under the command of Ben-Gvir, and the Palestinian leaders in Israel warned that the goal of the National Guard was to harm the Palestinian citizens of the country.
Channel 12 indicated that a committee set up by the Israeli government to consider establishing the National Guard had met ten times since its first meeting in June.
“In the discussions that took place, many security experts appeared before the committee, some of whom were high-ranking in the Israeli army,” it disclosed.
The channel quoted experts saying that the establishment of the National Guard, which would report directly to the minister and not to the police and border guards, would be a “disaster”.
“The same experts also argued before the committee that this poses great harm to Israel’s security,” added the channel.
Channel 12 noted: “Sources in the security apparatus believe, according to the committee’s deliberations, that the chances of recommending the establishment of the National Guard as a separate body seems to be zero and that there is great opposition to this step.”
However, far-right Otzma Yehudit party leader Ben-Gvir attacked the Defence Minister, telling the channel: “Minister Gallant has developed a bad habit; he sends a letter to the media then sends it to our office.”
He added: “We have not yet received Minister Gallant’s message, which was published in the media this evening (Thursday). In fact, the committee has not formulated its recommendations yet, but we suggest that he not interfere in a matter that has nothing to do with him.”
Ben-Gvir added that Netanyahu agreed with him to establish a national guard in Israel and stated: “They will decide, and not Minister Gallant, how the guard will operate. We ask Gallant, who tried to hinder legal reform and is preoccupied with pursuing settlers, not to interfere in the affairs of the National Guard. The committee is in the process of completing its work and will submit its recommendations within a month and a half.”
The police are under the responsibility of the Israeli Minister of National Security, while the army is under the Minister of Defence.