Police chief embraces Ben Gvir despite having blamed him for 2021 riots

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Police chief Kobi Shabtai (L) seen sitting next to MK Itamar Ben Gvir at an event on November 14, 2022 (Courtesy)
Police chief Kobi Shabtai (L) seen sitting next to MK Itamar Ben Gvir at an event on November 14, 2022 (Courtesy)

Far-right leader MK Itamar Ben Gvir and chief of the Israel Police Kobi Shabtai share a hug and exchange words despite Shabtai having accused the Otzma Yehudit leader of provoking the May 2021 inter-communal riots which left several dead, hundreds injured and resulted in widespread property damage.

Shabtai and Ben Gvir meet at a United Hatzalah ceremony for the dedication of a new ambulance, clasp hands, hug, and speak briefly after being seated next to each other at the event.

Ben Gvir has demanded he be appointed public security minister, a position with authority over the police, in ongoing coalition negotiations with Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

The police chief would serve under Ben Gvir should the latter be appointed public security minister in the next government.

In May 2021 during Israel’s conflict with Gaza, Shabtai reportedly blamed Ben Gvir for the deadly riots in mixed Jewish-Arab cities, citing the Otzma leader’s decision to set up an ad hoc office in the volatile East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah which sparked clashes with Palestinian residents shortly before widespread rioting broke out.

In one incident during the subsequent unrest, Ben Gvir called on activists to stage a demonstration in Ramle, one of the focal points of the riots.

Hundreds of extremist Jewish activists, many from outside the city, turned up in Ramle and rioted, attacked vehicles driven by Arabs and sought to enter an Arab neighborhood before being turned back by riot police.

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