Ben Gvir hammered by president, opposition over ‘Hamas <3 Biden' tweet

Lapid and Yesh Atid lawmakers urge Netanyahu to fire minister for ‘infantile’ response to US arms freeze threat, amid worries quip could harm national security

File - National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir at the Israel Police Independence Day ceremony at the National Headquarters of the Israel Police in Jerusalem, May 9, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
File - National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir at the Israel Police Independence Day ceremony at the National Headquarters of the Israel Police in Jerusalem, May 9, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir faced calls for his sacking Thursday after he quipped online that the Hamas terror group loves Joe Biden, in reaction to the US president’s comments to CNN that he would freeze arms transfers to Israel should the military advance into the Gazan city of Rafah.

Opposition head Yair Lapid led a chorus of lawmakers from his side of the aisle excoriating Ben Gvir, a hard-right politician known for his brash online trolling and populist rabble-rousing, and accusing him of hacking away at whatever is left of US support for Israel. Joining the criticism was President Isaac Herzog.

“If [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu does not fire Ben Gvir today, he is endangering every soldier in the IDF and every citizen in the State of Israel,” Lapid declared in a statement on Thursday morning.

He later called on Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot — the first two are members of the war cabinet and the third is an observer in it — to press Netanyahu for Ben Gvir’s ouster.

The three, seen as leading voices of moderation tamping down on far-right forces within Netanyahu’s government, should “not suffice with condemnations this time, they should demand the dismissal of Itamar Ben Gvir,” he said.

Ben Gvir’s tweet was one of several fuming reactions from government figures Thursday morning following Biden’s warning that the US would stop providing offensive weapons to Israel if it pushed ahead with a planned offensive in Rafah, seen as the last major Hamas redoubt in Gaza but also home to over a million displaced Gazans who are sheltering there after fleeing other parts of the Strip.

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid, leads a faction meeting at the Knesset on April 15, 2024 (Chaim Goldbergl/Flash90)

“Hamas [loves] Biden,” Ben Gvir tweeted, with a heart emoji.

Others, including Israeli envoy to the UN Gilad Erdan, similarly charged that Biden’s comments were giving succor to the terror group, though using more diplomatic language.

At a state ceremony commemorating the defeat of Nazi Germany, Herzog pointedly thanked Biden, calling him “a great friend of the State of Israel… who proved as such from the first day of the war.”

“Even when there are disagreements and moments of disappointment between friends and allies, there is a way to clarify the disputes and it is beholden upon all of us to avoid baseless, irresponsible and insulting statements and tweets that harm the national security and the interests of the State of Israel,” he added, without mentioning Ben Gvir by name.

Labor MK Efrat Rayten warned in a tweet that “the potential damage to Israel from this infantile tweet is incalculable.”

President Issac Herzog speaks during a state ceremony for fallen Israeli soldiers whose burial place is unknown at Mount Herzl Military cemetery in Jerusalem on March 17, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

“This isn’t Ben Gvir the provocateur, but the national security minister of the state of Israel writing in English so the whole world will know what Netanyahu thinks,” she posted. “If Netanyahu doesn’t strongly and publicly condemn this tweet, then he is signing his name under it.”

Several Yesh Atid MKs followed the lead of party head Lapid in calling for Ben Gvir to be fired and labeling him a danger to national security.

“A government of total idiots, anti-Israel and criminal,” the faction’s Vladimir Beliak said on X, not mincing his words.

Neither Netanyahu nor Ben Gvir responded to the criticism. The prime minister has faced consistent pressure both domestically and in some cases internationally over his coalition’s reliance on Ben Gvir, who leads the far-right Otzma Yehudit party. A former follower of extremist rabbi Meir Kahane, Ben Gvir has been accused of making inflammatory and racist statements and of bolstering Jewish supremacists and terror suspects.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, greets National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir at the Knesset on May 23, 2023. (Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP)

Speaking at police headquarters for a pre-Independence Day ceremony, Ben Gvir appeared to defiantly brush away the criticism, counseling that Israel should not put too much trust in its foreign allies.

“We celebrate the independence of the State of Israel, even as many challenge it,” he said. “Victory depends on us alone. You have to fight without compromise. We have no one to rely on but ourselves and our Father in heaven.”

The criticism echoed comments made against Ben Gvir last month after he slangily tweeted “Lame!” in response to an alleged Israeli strike in Iran meant to respond to Tehran’s massive missile and drone attack on Israel.

At the time, unnamed government officials close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were quoted by Channel 12 news calling the far-right minister “childish and irrelevant to any discussion.” They accused him of wreaking extensive damage on national security, the report said.

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