Ben Gvir’s party says it’s no longer bound by coalition discipline amid spat with Haredi factions

Sam Sokol is the Times of Israel's political correspondent. He was previously a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Haaretz. He is the author of "Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews"

File - National Security Itamar Ben Gvir leads an Otzma Yehudit faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 4, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
File - National Security Itamar Ben Gvir leads an Otzma Yehudit faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 4, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s far-right Otzma Yehudit party declares that it is no longer bound by coalition discipline after the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties expressed opposition to an expansion of his authority.

“Over the last few hours, the representatives of the ultra-Orthodox factions informed Minister Ben Gvir that they will not allow the transfer of the Real Estate Enforcement Division to the National Security Ministry,” the party says in a statement blasting what it claims is a deal Haredi lawmakers made with their Arab colleagues to tank the transfer “in exchange for their support for the conscription law.”

“Minister Ben Gvir and the members of the Otzma Yehudit faction informed the chairman of the coalition that as of today, the Otzma Yehudit faction is not bound by the coalition’s discipline, and until the authority is transferred, it will vote as it sees fit,” the party says.

The statement is likely referring to recent media reports that the ultra-Orthodox Shas party would reach out to Arab lawmakers to help pass legislation to maintain yeshiva students’ draft deferments — a report denied by Hadash party chief Ayman Odeh. Haredi media reports that ultra-Orthodox MKs’ opposition to giving Ben Gvir more authority stems from his opposition to legislation relating to so-called “kosher phones” that they support.

Last week, the government announced that Ben Gvir would assume responsibility over a unit that enforces building regulations which has until now been under the auspices of the Finance Ministry.

The move is part of the coalition agreement signed between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit party when the government took power in late 2022.

The Knesset is set to vote to approve the transfer during a plenum session this afternoon.

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