UAE ambassador 'warmly embraces' Israel's next far-right security minister Ben-Gvir

UAE ambassador 'warmly embraces' Israel's next far-right security minister Ben-Gvir
Extreme-right Israeli politician Itamar Ben-Gvir is likely to be given the post of national security minister in Netanyahu's new government.
2 min read
02 December, 2022
Extremist politician Itamar Ben-Gvir attended an event with the UAE's ambassador to Israel [Getty]

The UAE's ambassador to Israel "warmly welcomed"  extreme-right politician Itamar Ben-Gvir, known for his racist statments against Palestinians and Arabs, at a reception hosted by the Emirati embassy in Tel Aviv on Thursday.

This took place despite Abu Dhabi's previous warnings against Ben-Gvir, who is a leader in the extremist Religious Zionism bloc, being given a ministerial post in Israel's next government, which will be led by Benjamin Netanyahu.

UAE Ambassador Mohamed Al-Khaja was seen clasping hands with Ben-Gvir at a reception at the Hilton Hotel, where the star of the show, Netanyahu, gave a speech to Israeli and Emirati officials which ended with the Arabic word "inshallah".

Israeli media described the meeting between Al-Khaja and Ben Gvir as "warm" and photos showed the two exchanging words and shaking hands.

Ben Gvir is expected to be given the position of national security minister in Netanyahu's new government. 

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It would see him oversee policing and illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, and is likely to further worsen the ongoing persecution of Palestinians in the occupied territories.

Ben Gvir has been described as a "disciple" of extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose movement was banned by the Israeli government and later designated as a terrorist organisation after the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs massacre of 29 Palestinians, which was carried out by one of Kahane's followers.

Ben Gvir insists he has changed his views since he was convicted of inciting racism and supporting a terrorist organisation in 2007 after he called for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

Israeli media reported that before November's elections, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed warned former PM Benjamin Netanyahu against forming a government with Ben Gvir and another Religious Zionism leader, Bezalel Smotrich.

Netanyahu's Likud Party, Religious Zionism, and other far-right groups went on to win a majority of seats in the Knesset.

On Friday, Netanyahu signalled that he would ignore these warnings when he inked a deal to form a government, giving key positions to Religious Zionism politicians.

Smotrich is expected to be given the finance minister portfolio.

The UAE and Israel signed a controversial normalisation agreement in 2020, despite the continued occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza.

The deal was almost universally slammed by Arab public opinion, despite three other Arab states also normalising ties with Israel.