Presumed incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Otzma Yehudit head Itamar Ben Gvir have swiped at each other in the press amid ongoing talks to form a new government.
The far-right lawmaker is set to serve as minister in charge of police in Netanyahu’s government.
Channel 12 news reported remarks the two made in “closed conversations” — usually code for statements given to reporters unofficially — with Netanyahu saying Ben Gvir needed to rein in his fiery comments on security issues.
“Ben Gvir needs to calm down. He needs to internalize that he is [going to be] the public security minister. He can’t express himself like an opposition MK,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying.
The Otzma Yehudit leader was quoted as retorting that Netanyahu “must understand he isn’t in the opposition, he is the head of a fully right-wing government.”
The network reported that in a meeting between the two on Thursday, Ben Gvir slammed Netanyahu for “making a U-turn” on various matters the two had discussed.
According to Channel 12, Ben Gvir had demanded to ease the police’s open-fire rules, and pass a bill giving immunity to soldiers, and Netanyahu was unwilling to include the requests in coalition agreements.
“That’s not why I came to politics,” Ben Gvir reportedly shouted at Netanyahu in the meeting.
In a coalition deal with Otzma Yehudit, Netanyahu agreed to appoint party chairman Ben Gvir to the newly created role of national security minister with authority over the police and, possibly, the Border Police’s division in the West Bank. He also reportedly agreed to advance the legalization of dozens of illegal Israeli outposts throughout the West Bank.
Ben Gvir also complained to Netanyahu about the number of ministerial and government roles given to Religious Zionism during their Thursday meeting, Channel 12 said.
In the deal with Religious Zionism, Netanyahu agreed to name party chairman Bezalel Smotrich finance minister in addition to transferring control over a pair of Defense Ministry bodies responsible for authorizing settlement construction, Palestinian home demolitions and broader control of Palestinian civilian life to a member of the far-right right party — possibly Smotrich himself — who will serve as a junior minister in the Defense Ministry.
Channel 12 reported on Saturday, without sourcing, that Smotrich is indeed going to take the Defense Ministry job himself, rather than entrusting it to another member of his party, and will divide his time between the two posts, maintaining an office in both the Treasury and the Defense Ministry.
The Likud leader has until December 11 to form a government, though he can request a 14-day extension if he fails to do so in time.