Israel’s extreme-Right police minister will be given a “personal, political militia” as a reward for backing the prime minister’s decision to pause his controversial legal overhaul, a former police chief has warned.
Moshe Karadi raised the alarm about the deal after Mr Netanyahu announced he was freezing his plans for the overhaul after unprecedented mass protests, strikes and civil unrest across Israel on Sunday night and Monday.
“He’s dismantling Israeli democracy… [it’s] dangerous and a distinct characteristic of turning Israel into a dictatorship,” Mr Karadi said of the deal with police minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.
He accused Mr Ben-Gvir, who has a conviction for anti-Arab racism, of trying to set up a “a private militia for his political needs” and warned that violent settlers would be recruited into its ranks.
The agreement with Mr Ben-Gvir reflects how Mr Netanyahu is deeply beholden to the demands of extremists propping up his coalition government amid one of the biggest crises in the country’s history.
Critics of Mr Netanyahu’s legal overhaul say it will “destroy” democracy in Israel by giving the government sweeping powers over the supreme court and wider judicial system.
As police minister, Mr Ben-Gvir, who saw a surge in support in last November’s elections, has tried to burnish his image as a “tough-guy” politician committed to clamping down on lawbreakers and Palestinian terrorism.
But his background as a supporter of a Jewish terrorist organisation, for which he has a criminal conviction, has made him a hugely controversial figure in the government and alarmed Israel’s allies.
Shortly after the deal was announced on Monday evening, a mob of Jewish extremists, attending a demonstration co-organised by Mr Ben-Gvir, rampaged through Jerusalem chanting “death to Arabs” and at one point attacked a Palestinian taxi driver.
Police said the victim, a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem, was “savagely attacked by the rioters who chased him and caused heavy damage to his car”.
One Left-wing Israeli lawmaker said the attack, which took place near a petrol station, was an attempted lynching.
Israeli media expressed some scepticism about whether Mr Ben-Gvir’s national guard would actually be formed, noting that previous leaders had tried similar schemes without much success.
A Reuters correspondent also pointed out in a post on Twitter that Mr Ben-Gvir is already struggling to fill a massive 1,600 vacancies in the police force, due to poor wages and a heavy workload.
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