US to Netanyahu: Appoint defense, public security ministers we can work with -report

As coalition negotiations continue, the US government told Netanyahu to carefully consider his appointments to the defense and public security ministries.

 L: Otzma Yehudit leader MK Itamar Ben Gvir. R: Likud leader, former-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
L: Otzma Yehudit leader MK Itamar Ben Gvir. R: Likud leader, former-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu should appoint politicians that the US government can work with to the roles of defense minister and public security minister, President Joe Biden's administration told the incoming Israeli prime minister according to a Ynet report on Tuesday morning.

The US claims that it is a security issue, and is not seeking to interfere in local politics. In order for the security cooperation between Israel and the US to succeed Israel needs to carefully consider to will be appointed to those positions, the Biden administration told Netanyahu, according to the Ynet report.

Religious Zionist Party leader Bezalel Smotrich has been lobbying for the defense portfolio, and Oztmah Yehudit leader Itamar Ben-Gvir has been seeking the position of Public Security Minister.

Religious Zionist Party issued a statement from a leading group of rabbis associated with the party on Sunday, calling Prime Minister-elect Netanyahu to appoint Smotrich to the position of Defense Minister.

The rabbis explained that the reason to insist on the Defense Ministry was "to strengthen Israel's safety, the spirit of the IDF, to prevent the formation of a Palestinian state and to regulate the settlement of Judea and Samaria," according to the statement.

Then-head of the National Union party MK Betzalel Smotrich and attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir attend Otzma Yehudit party's election campaign event in Bat Yam on April 06, 2019.  (credit: GILI YAARI/FLASH90)Then-head of the National Union party MK Betzalel Smotrich and attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir attend Otzma Yehudit party's election campaign event in Bat Yam on April 06, 2019. (credit: GILI YAARI/FLASH90)

The US State Department has already condemned Ben-Gvir's action

Smotrich and Ben-Gvir are widely considered controversial political figures, the latter having been condemned by the US for attendance at a rabbi Meir Kahane memorial.

“Celebrating the legacy of a terrorist organization is abhorrent – there is no other word for it,” State Department's spokesperson Ned Price said on Thursday.

“We remain concerned by the legacy of Kahane and the continued use of rhetoric among violent right-wing extremists,” he said. “We’ve condemned incitement, we’ve condemned violence and racism in all of its forms. There is a good reason why Kahane[‘s group Kach] remained designated as a specially designated global terrorist organization.”

Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Liberman has said that "appointing Smotrich (as Defense Minister) will harm Israel's national security."

"Today we enjoy full cooperation with the Pentagon, in the most sensitive issues. The US told Israel after the elections that their cooperation with offices headed by Ben-Gvir and Smotrich will be minimal. Netanyahu understands very well the mess we'll be in without cooperation with Pentagon," he added. 

Tzvi Joffre and Eliav Breuer contributed to this article.