The two leaders of Israel’s far-right Knesset factions Religious Zionism and Otzma Yehudit vowed on Tuesday that the coming government they hope to form would take harsh measures to combat the wave of Palestinian terror attacks seen in recent months.
Speaking at their faction meetings in the Knesset, Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich declared that attackers could expect lethal use of force, while Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir insisted that open-fire regulations for security forces must be eased in order to thwart future attacks.
Both leaders referenced Tuesday’s West Bank terror attack, in which three people were killed, and pledged that a new right-wing government would restore security to the country.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, head of the right-wing secularist Yisrael Beytenu, said he was “really disturbed” by the incoming coalition poised to take power, declaring that its policies for overhauling the judicial and legal system and the influence of religious leaders upon its politicians will lead to “an ayatollah regime.”
In recent days, Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef urged the right-wing religious parties to pass a High Court override law in the next Knesset — as they have declared they wish to do — in order to uphold Orthodox Jewish standards in public Jewish life.
“They’re going to form an ayatollah regime, the blue and white version,” Liberman said during Yisrael Beytenu’s faction meeting.
“I am really disturbed by the emerging coalition, an anti-Zionist coalition for the first time since the formation of the state.”
At the same time, Ta’al party leader Ahmad Tibi denounced the likely incoming coalition, saying “Israeli-Jewish fascism is becoming the official government position these days,” and warned that any change to the status quo on the Temple Mount would “ignite the region.”
Ben Gvir is an ardent advocate of expanding Jewish prayer rights and freedom of worship on the Temple Mount, which would change the status quo formulated in 1967, under which public non-Muslim worship is banned at the site.
The site, known by Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, is the holiest place in Judaism and one the holiest sites in Islam. Non-Muslim visiting hours are strictly limited while only Muslims are able to conduct public prayer services.
Addressing his party colleagues, Smotrich promised that a new government would take draconian measures to combat terrorism.
“We have to go from defense to offense… we have to ensure that anyone who raises a hand, or a weapon, or a stone will know that ‘their blood is on their own head,’ and those around him will pay a heavy price for it,” said Smotrich.
Ben Gvir said at the Otzma Yehudit faction meeting that he will “teach our enemies a lesson” upon entering the public security ministry — the portfolio he is seeking in ongoing coalition negotiations with Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
“If we enter into the Public Security Ministry, we will, with God’s help, do everything to fight terror attacks, we’ll do everything to return deterrence to the State of Israel, we’ll do everything to back up police officers and soldiers, we’ll do everything to teach our enemies a lesson, that it’s not possible to mess with Israel,” Ben Gvir said.
He added that he had included in the negotiations with Netanyahu his demand to ease open-fire regulations for IDF soldiers and police personnel. He claims this is necessary to allow security forces to better combat terrorism.
During the election campaign, Ben Gvir also insisted he would demand soldiers and police officers be granted immunity from prosecution for actions carried out during operational duty, although it is unclear if the faction has included this demand in its coalition negotiations.
Despite Ben Gvir’s claims, current Public Security Minister Omer Barlev recently dismissed the far-right leader’s assertions that current rules are too strict, and pointed to a series of successful anti-terror operations by Israeli security services against Palestinian combatants.
“Anyone who claims that Israel’s police officers do not have full backing and that there is a need to change the open-fire regulations is deceiving the Israeli public, is mistaken and is misleading,” Barlev said last week.
Speaking at the Hadash-Ta’al faction meeting, leaders Ayman Odeh and Tibi spoke out fiercely against the prospective government but insisted that the rise of the far-right was primarily a problem for Jewish society.
“Israeli-Jewish fascism is becoming the official government position these days,” said Tibi.
Odeh added: “Now it’s clear to everyone, the occupation is Ben Gvir; is Smotrich; is the hothouse of fascism inside the State of Israel.”
Tibi added, however, that though he was concerned by the rise of Ben Gvir and Smotrich, whose joint slate is the third largest in the Knesset, their newfound power was a “Jewish problem” first and foremost.
“We’ll get over the fascism of Smotrich and Ben Gvir, it’s not just an Arab problem. It’s mostly a Jewish problem,” said Tibi.
The Ta’al party leader also warned that any change to the sensitive status quo on Jerusalem’s flashpoint Temple Mount “will ignite” the Middle East.
“Any attempt to harm or change the status quo in the mosque or any meter of the plaza will ignite” the Middle East,” said Tibi.