Ben Gvir reportedly fuming at police chief: ‘Will be hard for me to work with him’

Likely new minister said to be feuding with Kobi Shabtai over dispute about advancing police appointments before next government is sworn in

Head of the Otzma Yehudit party MK Itamar Ben Gvir, left, and Israel Police chief Kobi Shabtai attend a ceremony, in Tel Aviv, November 14, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Head of the Otzma Yehudit party MK Itamar Ben Gvir, left, and Israel Police chief Kobi Shabtai attend a ceremony, in Tel Aviv, November 14, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Israel Police chief Yaakov “Kobi” Shabtai and expected future national security minister Itamar Ben Gvir are reportedly already clashing before the Otzma Yehudit leader has even taken office.

According to a Yedioth Ahronoth report on Tuesday, Ben Gvir — who has been promised the expanded ministerial position by prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu — demanded recently that Shabtai hold off on making any senior appointments in the police before he’s sworn in.

Channel 12 news reported later Tuesday that Ben Gvir initially believed Shabtai was freezing the appointments following his demand. But when the far-right lawmaker found out that Shabtai was moving ahead with appointments for commanders of two regional divisions, he was reportedly furious.

“This is not legal, this is not lawful, this is not professional,” Ben Gvir was quoted telling a top aide to Shabtai. “It will be hard for me to work with a police commissioner who doesn’t keep his promises, a police commissioner who tells me he knows it is against the law and does it anyway.”

“I need a strong police chief, not a police chief who hides behind an illegal decision by a minister,” Ben Gvir reportedly added.

Ben Gvir is positioned to receive an expanded form of the Public Security Ministry in the next government, which will be retitled the National Security Ministry. He is slated to receive additional authority, including over the West Bank’s Border Police, which currently operates under the Israel Defense Forces.

Otzma Yehudit leader MK Itamar Ben Gvir at the scene of a terror attack near the entrance to Jerusalem, on November 23, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Shabtai and Ben Gvir have reportedly had bad blood over the past several years, during which the police chief was said to accuse the far-right lawmaker of stoking flames between Jews and Arabs in East Jerusalem and beyond.

Last month, Shabtai denied harboring any ill will toward Ben Gvir, and said he will work with whoever becomes the next police minister.

“There’s no reason for us to hold a reconciliation because we never clashed,” Shabtai said shortly after the November 1 national election, weeks before Ben Gvir was promised the job by Netanyahu in the coalition agreement between Likud and Otzma Yehudit.

Asked whether he’d have any issue working with Ben Gvir, who was not drafted for mandatory military service by the IDF because of his extremist activities, Shabtai said: “They will choose who they choose, we’re in a democratic nation.”

“I’ll go along with anything,” the police chief said. “I have no problem with anyone.”

Separately, a top aide to Ben Gvir reportedly sharply clashed repeatedly with Netanyahu during coalition negotiations.

According to Channel 13 news, Chanamel Dorfman, Ben Gvir’s right-hand man and Otzma Yehudit’s chief negotiator, was notably aggressive during coalition talks, with Dorfman and Netanyahu repeatedly engaging in heated disputes.

Over the weekend, Netanyahu reportedly said that Ben Gvir needs to tone down his fiery rhetoric.

“Ben Gvir needs to calm down. He needs to internalize that he is [going to be] the public security minister. He can’t express himself like an opposition MK,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying.

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