Itamar Ben-Gvir is the antithesis to Israel's founding fathers - editorial

Ben-Gvir is the antithesis of what Israel’s founding fathers had in mind when they established the State of Israel and dreamed of coexistence with their Arab neighbors.

 MK Itamar Ben-Gvir arrives to open his office in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, February 13, 2022. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
MK Itamar Ben-Gvir arrives to open his office in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, February 13, 2022.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Itamar Ben-Gvir, leader of Otzma Yehudit, puts on a great show.

He constantly smiles in interviews and during public appearances. He jokes with the journalists who interview him and disarms them with his cheerful and friendly approach.

But don’t be mistaken – he is dangerous and people need to beware.

Occasionally, as happened in one interview this week, he shows his true face.

Ben-Gvir's true face

“When we form the government, I will promote the ‘Deportation Law,’ which will deport anyone who acts against the State of Israel or IDF soldiers,” Ben-Gvir said in the interview. “Those who throw stones and Molotov cocktails at soldiers will be deported from here.... Maybe to Europe. They need working hands there.”

Otzma Yehudi head MK Itamar Ben-Gvir announces his independent run for the 25th Knesset, breaking away from the Religious Zionist Party, August 15, 2022 (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)Otzma Yehudi head MK Itamar Ben-Gvir announces his independent run for the 25th Knesset, breaking away from the Religious Zionist Party, August 15, 2022 (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

However, he said, the same law would not apply to Jews. Instead, he said, Jews who throw stones at Arabs would be put in jail in Israel but would not be deported from the country.

In other words, there are two sets of laws in Israel: those for Arabs and those for Jews.

These are words that need to be illegitimate in our public discourse. They are meant to divide and rip apart our social fabric.

Imagine for a moment that a politician calls to deport Jews from Europe to Israel, claiming that they act against the state. Would we in Israel be applauding such rhetoric? Would we think that his policies should be adopted?

Ben-Gvir: Antithesis to Israel's founding fathers

Ben-Gvir is an ardent follower of Kach founder Meir Kahane. He is a past leader of the militant group who had a picture of terrorist Baruch Goldstein – the American-born Israeli doctor who slaughtered 29 Muslim worshipers in 1994 in the Cave of the Patriarchs – hanging in his Hebron home until recently, and according to the investigative program Uvda, was involved in instigating illegal settler activity in the West Bank, at illegal outposts and in “price-tag” attacks against Palestinians.

Ben-Gvir is the antithesis of what Israel’s founding fathers had in mind when they established the State of Israel and dreamed of coexistence with their Arab neighbors. This was shown to be possible with the participation of Mansour Abbas’s Ra’am Party in the last coalition government. Ben-Gvir does not want to get along with the Arabs. He is an Israeli version of what white supremacists are in the United States.

Past Israeli political leaders understood this. When Meir Kahane would speak from the Knesset plenum, members of the Likud Party – including party leader Yitzhak Shamir – would leave the room to show that they consider the rabbi to be a racist and his views to be illegitimate.

Ben-Gvir is treated instead today like a rock star. He is constantly on TV shows, radio shows and is a favorite interviewee for newspapers. Likudniks have embraced him as a legitimate coalition partner.

We do have to recognize, though, what his rise shows and symbolizes, which is an Israel that does not have equal rights for its citizens, treats Arabs and Palestinians differently and puts Jewish law before democracy.

Where does Ben-Gvir's support come from?

His appeal stems from the fact that his ideas are easy to articulate, even if they will never be implemented. He claims that the government is weak, does not do enough to fight terrorism and capitulates too often to Western powers like the US. People tend to flock to these populist, nationalistic leaders.

One demographic targeted by Ben-Gvir are young people, including many first-time voters. As his campaign manager Nevo Cohen told the Post last week, in young people “whose opinion is flexible... we see a very positive response to our messages – and not without reason, since as people get older, their opinions are shaped by ‘mind designers’ and different kinds of media tools. When you are younger, you are much more open to hearing opinions and positions that are different than those of your parents.”

This is Ben-Gvir’s plan. As the election campaign starts to pick up pace in the coming weeks, it is important to be aware of the challenge that lies ahead and the importance of these elections. Ben-Gvir’s run for office might be legal but it is also dangerous.