"The first and foremost thing that Itamar Ben-Gvir will do when he joins the government is to tackle the rise of terror against Jews and make it clear that there cannot be any no-go-zones in Israel,” a source close to extreme right-wing Otzma Yehudit chairman MK Itamar Ben-Gvir told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
So what exactly does the most colorful and controversial senior Israeli politician plan to do if he and his party actually join a Benjamin Netanyahu-led coalition?
1. Crack down on Arab crime, terrorism and deport Ayman Odeh
As the Otzma Yehudit source said, Ben-Gvir is determined to make dramatic changes regarding all of Israel’s security agencies. "[We should] deport in ships and planes those who harm IDF soldiers,” Ben Gvir said in an interview to N12 recently. He added that the leader of the Hadash party and Joint List alliance MK Ayman Odeh, “acts against this country," and therefore should be deported.
Yet Ben-Gvir isn’t just planning on tackling terror against Jews. He recently launched a campaign geared toward Arab communities. "The time has come, the time for Ben-Gvir to stop the crime," the poster reads in Arabic. His party members explained that they weren’t going to physically distribute these flyers but will promote them online. They added that it is “certainly an attempt by Ben-Gvir to speak to the Arab public directly, instead of through their politicians.”
“You also deserve that your children will not be killed in wars and that there will be no violence in the [Arab] neighborhoods,'' he told N12’s Mohammad Magadli in an interview. “I have no problem with Arabs. I have a problem with terrorists. I have a problem with those who raise their hands and throw stones and molotov cocktails [at us] because we are Jews," Ben-Gvir said.
In the same interview, he added that in his perspective, “an Arab citizen can be a minister; can be a judge - but he must be loyal to this country. I cannot allow those who are not loyal to the country in the coalition [that we will be part of].” He has also been trying to be more mature and less provocative in recent years, something that isn’t clear whether it’s a real change or rather a strategic position that he has decided upon. “I was convicted twenty years ago for [creating] a sticker that says ‘Expel the Arabs,’” he told Magadli. “Today I am not in favor of expelling Arabs,” he said. “When I tell MK Mansour Abbas to condemn throwing stones at IDF soldiers - he supports terrorism."
2. Reinforce conservative religion-and-state views, crack down on Reform Jews
Ben-Gvir and his party members will try to affect issues regarding religion-and-state in a conservative perspective. "The Reform [Jews] brought enormous destruction on American Jewry, the assimilation is a terrible blow,” Yitzhak Wasserlauf, the second Otzma Yehudit member said in an interview to Makor Rishon weekly newspaper. Wasserlauf added that Reform Jews “make a mockery of religion. [They] celebrate bar mitzvahs for dogs and they have weddings with a rabbi and a priest simultaneously. The result is losing a large percentage of the Jews in the United States every year. Here in Israel, there are almost no Reform communities, they just make noise as if they have [widespread Israeli] support."
“Reform Judaism isn’t a stream in Judaism. There is one Judaism. I am completely at peace with a person who considers himself a Reform Jew. He is my brother. I will fight for him, but that doesn’t mean that I agree with him.”Rabbi Amichai Eliyahu
The third member of Otzma Yehudit in the Religious Zionist Party (RZP) Rabbi Amichai Eliyahu, son of Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, told the Post a few weeks ago that “Reform Judaism isn’t a stream in Judaism. There is one Judaism. I am completely at peace with a person who considers himself a Reform Jew. He is my brother. I will fight for him, but that doesn’t mean that I agree with him.” Asked if he will meet with Reform rabbis as an MK, Eliyahu answered, “Depends on the context. The Reform movement is very problematic, to say the least.” He said he would meet with Reform Jews or possibly rabbis, but not the movement's leadership.
3. Crack down on illegal international citizens living in Israel
One of Ben-Gvir’s most popular topics which he’s been promoting for years is having Israeli authorities become more strict on illegal international citizens who live in Israel without any permit or visa. One of the famous tricks that Ben-Gvir pulled before entering politics was inviting many African asylum seekers to go swimming at the Gordon pool in Tel Aviv - a place that is considered high-end and exclusive. He paid for these illegal workers to enter the pool and made sure that a TVcrew would film the prank, while Tel Avivian were mad at his creative step that was intended to provoke and prove his conservative point. We can expect that he will try to change certain laws regarding Illegal residents in Israel.
Walla contributed to this report.