50 Influential Jews: Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich - No. 23

These two ministers aims to extend Jewish sovereignty over the whole Land of Israel. They won't be deterred.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir have found themselves as the most controversial figures in Israel and the Jewish world – and maybe the most powerful ones – thanks to their radical agenda that has angered some of Israel’s best friends abroad while giving their supporters precisely what they voted for.

No. 22: Yael Eckstein and Roman Abramovitch >> 

No. 24: Nir Barkat, Amichai Chikli, and Ofir Sofer >>

Full list >>

With two of the most prominent ministries in the current right-wing government, the two have been able to advance their joint plan to expand Jewish sovereignty over the whole Land of Israel. Despite the heads they have turned and eyebrows they have raised, they have continued to have the back of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, even if he also may find himself at odds with some of their policies.

Both products of Judea and Samaria, Smotrich and Ben-Gvir are at the helm of what is likely the future of Israel’s governing coalition – ideologically strong Jews with an indifference, or even disdain, for Western culture and identity.

Ben-Gvir and Smotrich – who are both lawyers by profession – joined forces in the November 2022 election, winning an impressive 14 seats in the Knesset. More than 600,000 Israelis voted for their joint Religious Zionism Party list, including a fifth of IDF soldiers. While Ben-Gvir portrays the image of a provocateur in power who will do anything to prove his point – such as ascending the Temple Mount to assert that Jews have every right to be at the holy site – Smotrich is more conservative and restrained.

In January, they were rewarded when Netanyahu gave them plum appointments, with expanded powers in their respective ministries. Although the two men parted ways politically, they also became the new champions of ensuring the safety of Jews while combating lawlessness. They addressed demonstrations in favor of the government’s judicial reform legislation, garnering an even larger following, especially among the youth.

Amid a new wave of Palestinian terrorism and internecine Arab violence, the powerful duo unashamedly put their ideology on the table: restoring law and order, opposing any concessions regarding the Land of Israel, and rejecting any alliance with Arab political parties.

With demographics pointing to members of their camp – religious Zionism – becoming a majority in Israeli leadership, their actions have led to the open rethinking of items such as American Jews’ support for the Jewish state and the United States’ continued military aid to Israel.

Smotrich and Ben-Gvir are providing Israelis, the Diaspora and the larger world with an insight into Israel’s political future while signaling that it will remain a powerful and proud Jewish state.