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'I'm sorry, I am shaking' at prospect of a minister Ben Gvir

School principal faces ministry probe for slamming Ben Gvir at Rabin memorial event

Education Ministry to summon Merav Schreiber for saying far-right leader’s potential appointment as public security minister will raise danger of another political assassination

Head of the Otzma Yehudit party MK Itamar Ben Gvir at a ceremony honoring late Jewish extremist leader Rabbi Meir Kahane in Jerusalem on November 10, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Head of the Otzma Yehudit party MK Itamar Ben Gvir at a ceremony honoring late Jewish extremist leader Rabbi Meir Kahane in Jerusalem on November 10, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Education Ministry has opened a probe into the conduct of a Ramat Gan school principal over comments she made about far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir during a ceremony earlier this month marking 27 years since the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Merav Schreiber, principal of the Neta’im School in the Tel Aviv suburb, said during the ceremony that the potential appointment of Otzma Yehudit MK Ben Gvir as public security minister would raise the likelihood of the next political assassination.

“I’m sorry, I am shaking. If this person, who will probably be appointed public security minister — who chased after Rabin, tore off the emblem off his car and even said he could ‘get to him,’ receives what he wants — not only have we not learned anything but we will not be far away today from the next political murder,” Schreiber said.

Ben Gvir gained notoriety before the assassination of Rabin when during a TV interview he proudly held up an ornament that he’d managed to rip off Rabin’s Cadillac and said, “We’ll get to Rabin too.”

Schreiber detailed Ben Gvir’s extremist history: “Membership in a terrorist organization, activity in the [Jewish supremacist] Kach movement, which he joined at the age of 16. He was not drafted into the IDF. He headed a campaign against the Shin Bet and worked for the release of Yigal Amir, the murderer of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.” Ben Gvir was not drafted for mandatory military service because of his extremist activities,

“[Ben Gvir] is an enthusiastic supporter of Baruch Goldstein, and he is [sic] a senior member of the government,” the principal said.

Ben Gvir had a picture of Goldstein — a Jewish terrorist who carried out a massacre at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron in 1994, killing 29 Palestinians — hanging on the wall of his Kiryat Arba home. He removed it in 2019 after it became heavily publicized in Israeli media and began to harm him politically.

Merav Schreiber, principal of the Neta’im School in Ramat Gan, speaks during a memorial ceremony for assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, November 7, 2022 (Screen grab used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Footage of Schreiber’s speech went viral, causing consternation in some circles. According to Education Ministry directives, teachers should act sensitively when expressing political opinions.

Ramat Gan Mayor Carmel Shama-Hacohen told Channel 12 that he had received a number of complaints about the incident and had forwarded them to the municipality’s education department as well as the Education Ministry.

Schreiber will be summoned to the Education Ministry in the coming days for an investigation into the comments, the outlet said. In response, the ministry said the matter had been brought to its attention and would be examined.

Ben Gvir is a self-described disciple of late racist rabbi Meir Kahane, a former MK whose Kach party was banned and declared a terror group in the 1980s in both Israel and the US. Like the late Kahane, Ben Gvir was convicted in the past of supporting a terror organization, though he claims he has moderated in recent years.

The far-right MK has, in the last year, at least twice pulled his gun in confrontations, once with Arab security guards in a Tel Aviv parking lot and another time when confronted by Palestinian protesters during a tour of an East Jerusalem neighborhood. The police chief reportedly blamed him for deadly riots in May 2021 in mixed Jewish-Arab cities, the worst Israel had seen in decades.

After his bloc won a majority of Knesset seats in last week’s election, Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu is set to form a new right-religious government including Ben Gvir and his extremist Otzma Yehudit faction, which is part of the Religious Zionism alliance.

Shortly after Schreiber made the speech, Ben Gvir’s political partner MK Bezalel Smotrich was accused of spreading conspiracy theories for pointing blame at the Shin Bet security service for Rabin’s assassination.

Religious Zionist party head MK Bezalel Smotrich speaks at the plenum hall during a memorial ceremony marking 27 years since the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, at the Knesset in Jerusalem on November 6, 2022. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Speaking at a special Knesset session in memory of Rabin, who was assassinated by far-right extremist Amir on November 4, 1995, Smotrich argued that right-wing rhetoric against Rabin at the time was justified and played little role in inciting his killing. Instead, he alleged the Shin Bet, which is charged with protecting politicians, bore responsibility for, he claimed, encouraging the assassination. The claim prompted outrage from the Shin Bet; Amir’s own testimony refutes it.

Smotrich is demanding the defense post in coalition negotiations, leading to intense public pushback from a number of former top defense officials. He served only briefly in the IDF, with his service postponed to enable him to study in yeshiva and then attend law school, and then further shortened.

Smotrich was arrested in 2005 during protests against the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip and was held by the Shin Bet security service for three weeks, maintaining his right to remain silent and refusing to cooperate with the investigation. No indictment was filed against him. He was part of a cell of five people who were caught allegedly planning an attack on motorists on the Ayalon Highway with 700 liters of gasoline.

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