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Yesh Atid MK attends press conference, heckles ‘provocateur'

Predicting more war strife, Ben Gvir vows to bolster police, raise pay

National security minister says Israel facing danger of new outbreak of violence, calls for creation of volunteer civilian guard

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and police chief Kobi Shabtai hold a press conference at the National Security Ministry in Jerusalem, on January 24, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and police chief Kobi Shabtai hold a press conference at the National Security Ministry in Jerusalem, on January 24, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said on Tuesday that he wanted to significantly beef up Israel’s police force and create a new national volunteer unit, warning that another war and ethnic unrest were imminent.

Ben Gvir told a press conference that in every meeting he had with officials from various security agencies, the threat of a “second Guardians of the Walls”  came up. Guardians of the Walls is the name Israel gave its brief May 2021 war with the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, though the name has also come to encompass the race riots that took place between Jews and Arabs in many Israeli cities at the same time.

“We need to come to ‘Guardians of the Wall 2’ prepared,” he said. “In such a scenario, there is only one advantage, strengthening the police and establishing a national guard.”

The minister, the leader of the ultra-nationalist Otzma Yehudit party, said he wants to add 4,000 new officers in the next two years, raising pay by between 20 and 40 percent.

It was unclear where the funding would come from, and police have been struggling with both recruiting new officers and preventing others from resigning in recent years.

Ben Gvir said some 1,030 cops resigned over the past year, citing the relatively low wages. “It would be advantageous for police officers to enlist with respect. I call on all the police officers who have left the police in recent years, return home, this is your home,” he said.

Standing alongside Israel Police chief Kobi Shabtai, Ben Gvir also called for the creation of a national civilian force to guard the country, while promising to turn the Border Police into a “national” fighting force.

During a short break in the press conference, Yesh Atid MK Micky Levy yelled at Ben Gvir that he is a “provocateur,” while waving a copy of a state comptroller report on inter-ethnic fighting in May 2021, which police reportedly have partially blamed on actions by Ben Gvir to stir up anger.

Last year, then-prime minister Naftali Bennett announced the formation of a national guard police unit that would be activated in emergencies, citing the May 2021 conflict and riots.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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