Halevi: 'There's no dilemma. Those who surrender, we arrest'

Ben Gvir said to ask IDF chief why so many Gaza gunmen arrested: ‘Can’t you kill some?’

Reports say minister complained during briefing that too many terror operatives captured alive; a cabinet member retorted: ‘Are you a minister in Israel or a different country?’

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir leads a meeting of his far-right Otzma Yehudit party at the Knesset, on March 18, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir leads a meeting of his far-right Otzma Yehudit party at the Knesset, on March 18, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

At a recent security cabinet meeting with the IDF chief of staff, far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir questioned whether it was necessary to arrest so many terror operatives during operations in Gaza, and wondered whether the military couldn’t “kill some,” according to reports in Hebrew media.

The quotes, publicized on Friday by Channel 12 and Ynet, were said to have come from a meeting earlier this week, as Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi briefed ministers on recent operations and noted the arrests of hundreds of gunmen who surrendered to the troops.

“Why are there so many arrests?” Ben Gvir reportedly asked. “Can’t you kill some? Do you want to tell me they all surrender? What are we to do with so many arrested? It’s dangerous for the soldiers.”

Halevi, apparently nonplussed, was said to retort: “Dangerous for who? We don’t shoot people who come out with their hands up. We shoot those who fight us. There’s no dilemma here. Those who surrender, we arrest.”

And Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter, a former chief of the Shin Bet security agency, was quoted as saying to Ben Gvir: “I’m listening to you, and I don’t know whether you’re a minister in Israel or a different country.”

Killing prisoners of war is a war crime under international law.

An unnamed minister who spoke to Ynet asserted that Ben Gvir did not explicitly suggest killing individuals who had surrendered.

File: Agriculture Minsiter Avi Dichter visits at the Gaza border, southern Israel, May 26, 2023. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

The hardline Ben Gvir has often advocated for more lenient open-fire regulations for IDF soldiers, and defended soldiers accused of too readily using deadly force in West Bank clashes. He famously lent vocal support to former soldier Elor Azaria who was imprisoned for shooting dead a Palestinian attacker in Hebron in 2016 as he lay incapacitated, minutes after stabbing and wounding another soldier.

He has been increasingly criticized from within the cabinet for his rhetoric on IDF operations, war policy, relations with the US and more.

Formerly a far-right lawyer and agitator, Ben Gvir managed to enter the Knesset for the first time in 2021 with the help of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu engineered a merger of far-right parties to prevent the loss of right-wing votes on parties that would fail to pass the electoral threshold in that year’s election.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convenes a meeting of the security cabinet in Tel Aviv on March 15, 2024 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Despite once insisting Ben Gvir could not be a minister in his government due to his extreme views, Netanyahu made him the minister in charge of internal security following the 2022 elections.

In the past Ben Gvir was convicted eight times on incitement and terrorism charges. Until it began to harm him politically, Ben Gvir also kept on a wall of his Hebron home a picture of Baruch Goldstein, who in 1994 massacred 29 Palestinians at prayer in Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs.

Though Netanyahu has often ignored Ben Gvir’s more belligerent comments and sought to minimize his influence on decision-making, some commentators argue the threat of his quitting the coalition and bringing down the government has led Netanyahu to adopt more hardline positions on national security issues, including the war.

Ben Gvir was lightly injured Friday when his vehicle flipped in a car accident while leaving the scene of a terror stabbing in the central city of Ramle. Video from the scene showed his car running a red light.

Police said two vehicles were involved in the collision and five people were taken to hospital after being lightly injured.

In August last year, the hard-right minister was involved in another accident when his vehicle ran a red light while on the way to an interview. According to a Haaretz report in September, the Shin Bet unit in charge of guarding public figures raised the issue with the Prime Minister’s Office and the National Security Ministry, after Ben Gvir’s bodyguards complained that the minister regularly ordered his drivers to commit traffic infractions.

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