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Ben-Gvir slams army for crackdown on Israelis blocking aid

Ben-Gvir slams army for crackdown on Israelis blocking aid to Gaza
3 min read
13 February, 2024
National Security Minister Ben-Gvir is furious that the military and police are coordinating to crack down on protesters who seek to stop aid into Gaza
Ben-Gvir opposes both aid into Gaza and prisoner-exchange deals with Hamas [Getty]

Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has slammed the Israeli army for aiding the police in cracking down on protests that block humanitarian aid into Gaza, according to Israeli media reports on Monday.

Ben-Gvir and Israeli military Chief-of-Staff Herzi Halevi allegedly got into a "screaming match" with each other after the far-right firebrand accused the military of bypassing his office and dealing directly with police leaders during a cabinet meeting on Sunday.

"You cannot contact the Israel Police commissioner directly," Ben-Gvir was quoted by Israeli media as shouting at Halevi. "If you want him, you need to go through me."

In December of last year, the Israeli government, facing pressure from the US, allowed aid to enter Gaza via the Karem Abu Salem border crossing.

However, this decision was met by opposition from right-wing forces across Israel, most notably by far-right government ministers like Ben-Gvir and activists belonging to an umbrella movement of right-wing groups.

This movement opposes all aid into Gaza, believing that it will be used by Hamas against Israel. The groups mostly does not differentiate between Palestinian civilians and Hamas, and are even willing to sacrifice the wellbeing and lives of Israeli hostages.

The protesters physically block aid trucks from crossing into Gaza, with video from the crossings showing them camped out and dancing in front of the aid trucks. The police, whose leaders answer directly to Ben-Gvir as National Security Minister, initially took a passive approach to them.

However, following more US pressure, the police have been aided by the military in cracking down on the protesters and the aid has begun to flow more smoothly.

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This led to a furious response from Ben-Gvir, who claimed the military was exceeding its authority — something denied by both Halevi and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant.

Ben-Gvir has framed his opposition to the crackdown as being a matter of jurisdiction, however the far-right minister is a supporter of the protest movement’s attempts to stop aid entering Gaza. Members of his Jewish Power party are also involved in the movement itself.

One of the main groups involved in the anti-Gaza aid movement is the Tikva Forum, which also opposes any prisoner-exchange deals with Hamas. The Tivka Forum is funded by an association founded by current Israeli Minister for Heritage Amichai Eliyahu.

Eliyahu is a member of Ben-Gvir’s Jewish Power party and made international headlines last year when he advocated the use of a nuclear weapon on Gaza.

The latest incident between Ben-Gvir and the military is yet another indication of the various tensions within the far-right coalition government of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Ben-Gvir was once a fringe figure in Israeli politics, but his uncompromising, chauvinistic stances on Gaza have struck a chord in the wake of the events of 7 October and he is seen as having a growing influence on Netanyahu, who relies on the right-wing extremist to maintain power. 

Many believe that Ben-Gvir and Jewish Power have no interest in saving the lives of hostages and simply want to destroy Gaza, with him openly advocating the cleansing of the civilian population and the return of Jewish settlers to the Palestinian territory.