Far-right MK Ben Gvir summoned by Knesset security over gun incident in parking lot
Lawmaker prompts outrage after brandishing pistol during argument in Tel Aviv; attendant who clashed with him says weapon was handed over by someone else
Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.
The Knesset security chief summoned MK Itamar Ben Gvir for a talk Wednesday after the far-right lawmaker waved a pistol the night before during an argument with Arab parking attendants in Tel Aviv who told him to remove his vehicle from a prohibited spot.
Ben Gvir was called in for “a refresher on procedures,” according to Hebrew media reports.
Lawmakers from both coalition and opposition parties called for further investigation into the circumstances of the incident, with a focus on Ben Gvir’s suitability to have a gun permit. However, one of the parking attendants, in retelling the incident to media, said the firebrand lawmaker from the Religious Zionism party had been handed the gun by someone who was accompanying him.
MK Mossi Raz of the dovish Meretz party, a member of the coalition, asked Public Security Ministry Omer Barlev to clarify why Ben Gvir has a license to carry a gun in light of his previous criminal convictions. Ben Gvir has been convicted in the past, including for supporting a terror group and for incitement to racism in 2007.
Raz called on Barlev to “carefully examine” policies that enabled Ben Gvir to receive a gun license.
The Meretz party said in a statement about Tuesday night’s events that Ben Gvir had “called for the murder of Arab citizens and threatened them” with a firearm.
“A pistol waved in the first act is fired in the third,” the party warned. “There is no place for this terrorist behavior in the Knesset.”
The predominantly Arab Joint List opposition party asked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to open a criminal investigation into Ben Gvir and further demanded that Ben Gvir’s gun license be revoked.
One of the attendants involved in the clash told Hebrew media outlets that staff had noticed that Ben Gvir’s car was parked illegally.
The man told Channel 12 news that he tried to notify Ben Gvir of the problem as he was walking away from the vehicle with others, but the lawmaker apparently didn’t hear him, so he shouted to gain his attention.
From there the incident quickly escalated, with Ben Gvir responding in a hostile manner and, according to the attendant, telling one of the men who accompanied him, “Give me your gun.”
Ben Gvir then waved the weapon during the ensuing heated verbal clash. The attendant told Channel 12 that when staff pulled out their phones to record the incident, Ben Gvir lowered the weapon to his side. Video shared on social media showed Ben Gvir inserting the pistol into the waistband of his pants, rather than into a holster.
As the confrontation escalated, a supervisor arrived and Ben Gvir called the police. Though the attendants were questioned, no arrests were made.
The attendant, who lives in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiya, said he was questioned for hours by police and, as a result, was forced to sleep overnight at work rather than returning home.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which has in the past petitioned the High Court of Justice over gun license policies, said in a statement that the incident “illustrates that the nightmare scenario in which civilians arm themselves and wave weapons in the streets is coming true.”
Following his meeting with Knesset security officials, Ben Gvir dismissed the criticism, saying that “what bothers them is not that I held a gun in my hand but that I dared to defend myself.”
Though it was unclear who the weapon belonged to, Ben Gvir lives in a Jewish enclave of the West Bank city of Hebron and, as such, would likely be eligible to obtain a gun license for self-defense, like other Israelis living in settlements.
The incident occurred Tuesday night at the Expo Tel Aviv conference center.
In October, Ben Gvir was involved in a physical clash with an Arab lawmaker, MK Ayman Odeh, who leads the predominantly Arab-member Joint List party. The two confronted each other at the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot, where a Palestinian hunger striker suspected of terrorism was being treated.