Israel's Ben-Gvir heckled by other extremists at Kahane event, after disavowing expulsion of all Palestinians
Israeli far-right leader Itamar Ben-Gvir, a likely senior partner in the next coalition government, was booed on Thursday at a memorial service for Rabbi Meir Kahane, the founder of a Jewish supremacist militant group, when he disavowed calls for mass expulsion of Palestinians.
A former member of Kahane's outlawed Kach movement, he tweeted ahead of the Jerusalem event that his participation was in recognition of the slain US-born Israeli rabbi's "love of Israel" and "fight for Soviet Jewry and against anti-Semitism".
Until May 2022, Kahane's Kach was considered a terrorist organisation by the US over the 1994 Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre, in which a Kach member opened fire on hundreds of Palestinians in Hebron, killing 29 and injuring dozens more.
On Thursday, Israeli TV aired Ben-Gvir's eulogy for Kahane, who was shot by an Egyptian-American in Manhattan 32 years ago this week.
"It's no secret that today I am not Rabbi Kahane, and don't support expulsion of all the Arabs and will not pass laws for separate beaches for Arabs and Jews," he said, drawing boos from members of the audience, several of whom wore Kach T-shirts.
But there were cheers when he repeated his election pledge to deport "terrorists" - a term he has applied to Palestinian stone-throwers, as well as to some members of Israel's Palestinian minority, who make up 21 percent of the population.
The crowd also cheered as archive footage of Kahane calling for expulsion of Palestinians.
Among the audience were far-right Israeli lawmakers, extreme Hilltop Youth settlers and Meir Ettinger - a grandson of Kahane who was previously jailed for extremist activities, according to The Times of Israel.
Ben-Gvir, a practising lawyer with a previous conviction for supporting terrorism, claims he has moderated.
Just weeks before Israel's election, Ben-Gvir was filmed waving a gun at Palestinians in East Jerusalem. He was also accused in August of threatening to kill a Palestinian prisoner.
Having placed first in last week's election, right-wing former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to form the most extreme right-wing government in Israel's history and will likely ally with Ben-Gvir's far-right Religious Zionism and other nationalist parties to achieve a parliamentary majority.
That has raised alarm in Israel and abroad, given Ben-Gvir's record which includes a 2007 conviction for racist incitement and support for terrorism.
A settler living in the West Bank, which Israel occupied following the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Ben-Gvir wants the Palestinian Authority dismantled.
He also supports Jewish prayer at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which Israeli extremists regularly storm. Jewish prayer is currently forbidden under the Status Quo governing the religious site.
Washington has publicly withheld comment, saying it respected Israeli democracy and awaited confirmation of the new government and word of its policies including on the long-stalled Palestinian statehood talks and Iran's nuclear projects.
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price described Ben-Gvir's attendance at the event as "abhorrent".
"Celebrating the legacy of a terrorist organisation is abhorrent," Price said in a press conference when asked about the Israeli politician's actions.
"We are concerned by the use of Kahane's legacy and rhetoric by extremist and violent right-wing activists," he added.
(Reuters & The New Arab Staff)