The government on Sunday approved a proposal by National Security Minister MK Itamar Ben-Gvir to form a National Guard that would operate independently of the Israel Police in different emergency scenarios as well as fight terror and apply sovereignty in "areas where this is necessary."
"The National Guard that the government approved is an important message to the residents of Israel and to personal safety, a necessary, basic need for the State of Israel that enjoys braid consensus," Ben-Gvir said in a statement after the move was approved. "The Guard will operate in order to return sovereignty and personal safety all over Israel. I thank the prime minister for his support," Ben-Gvir said.
The decision stipulates that the national security minister form a committee headed by the ministry's director-general, which will within 60 days present a plan for the organizational structure, chain of command, budget and other areas related to the new body. The committee will include representatives from the prime minister's office, the defense ministry, the justice ministry, the finance ministry, the Israel Police, IDF and others.
The committee will also decide whether or not the National Guard will be subject to the Israel Police or to a different authority, the prime minister's office said in a statement It is therefore unclear whether or not Ben-Gvir will receive direct power over the new body. If the body will not be under the police, it will require legislation. After the committee concludes its work, the coalition will then have an additional 90 days to pass any legislation necessary to implement the decision.
Ahead of the debate during the cabinet meeting, Ben-Gvir agreed to make a number of changes to the text of the proposal at the request of representatives of the attorney general. The representatives still refused to support it and argued that it was legally problematic, but the proposal was put to a vote regardless and passed, according to Ben-Gvir's statement.
His spokesperson did not answer a query over which changes the minister agreed to make and which he did not.
Earlier in the cabinet meeting, the ministers approved a sweeping 1.5% budget cut in order to finance the new National Guard.
Opposition parties respond to the decision
A number of MKs from Israel's opposition parties attacked the government's intention today to approve the formation of a National Guard under the direct control of National Security Minister MK Itamar Ben-Gvir.
Former IDF Chief of Staff and current National Unity MK Gadi Eisenkot said that while the idea of a National Guard was correct, the formation of an operational body directly subordinate to the national security minister was a "severe event that destabilizes the principles of using force in the country and endangers the country."
"No less important, the fact that the commissioner turns to the government and is met with a refusal" Eisenkot added, referring to a report that Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai being denied a request to express to the government his opposition to the move."
"This is another link in the lack of judgement and responsibility required of the prime minister and government members. I call not to approve this irresponsible decision that is coming up today," Eisenkot added.
The Movement for Quality Government in Israel sent a letter to the government ministers prior to the debate, calling on them not to support the decision, and instead "examine alternatives."
"Minister Ben Gvir is determined to have a political police force that will serve his private interests, and holds the entire country hostage for this purpose, Adv. Tomer Naor, head of the legal department at the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, said in a statement accompanying the letter.
"We are confident that the government ministers will not accept a decision to which there is attached a concern, however minimal and remote, of harming the security of the citizens of the State of Israel, before considering it seriously and after weighing all the relevant considerations and hearing the views of the professionals," Naor wrote.
The decision to form the National Guard came as part of a deal struck between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir on Monday, where the Otzma Yehudit leader was promised the national guard in return for support of a pause in the legislation of the Judicial Selection Committee bill.