Ben Gvir’s Infighting Threatens to Collapse Coalition Government

By Aryeh Stern

View of the plenum hall in the Knesset. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir entered into a bitter dispute with the Shas party on Monday evening, vowing not to vote with the coalition, as the escalated interparty bickering threatened to bring down the government.

Ben Gvir, who has been angling for months for a greater say in the ongoing war against the Hamas in Gaza, threatened to pull his support from a Shas-fronted bill on funding religious councils if he is not given a spot on the now-disbanded War Cabinet. The bill was removed from a scheduled vote in the Knesset on Monday night.

Shas and Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit parties engaged in a war of words on Monday evening, issuing repeated dueling statements and personal attacks, casting blame on each other and threatening the future of the coalition.

Earlier in the evening, Ben Gvir issued a statement accusing the Likud and Shas of reaching a deal with Arab parties to block him from a seat on the war cabinet, later blasting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as running a “one-man government.”

According to Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit party, it had conditioned its support for Monday’s vote on funding for religious councils on Ben Gvir being granted a seat at the War Cabinet, even though Netanyahu disbanded the Cabinet several weeks ago when MK Benny Gantz’s National Unity party left the government.

“This deal between Likud, [Shas leader Rabbi Aryeh] Deri, and the terror supporters, in order to prevent the entry of Ben Gvir into the limited cabinet, is an embarrassment,” Otzma Yehudit said in a statement. It was not immediately clear what purported deal was being discussed, nor what role the Arab parties played in any makeup of the War Cabinet.

After Ben Gvir’s threats not to support the bill, the government pulled the legislation from the docket, and a number of Shas MKs walked out of the Knesset in protest.

The minister then directed his ire at Netanyahu, accusing him of ignoring his cabinet and making critical security decisions without any consultations.

“We are in an absurd reality where we are treading water in Gaza, on the northern border, tying the hands of the IDF, conducting negotiations with irresponsible opening positions, heading toward a political agreement — all of it while surrendering to terror on every front, and the prime minister is running a one-man government,” Ben Gvir said in a statement.

“The prime minister needs to understand that the ‘rule of the right’ is not a meaningless expression and the opinions of the coalition partners have weight. We did not join to be fans in the stands. We came to influence,” he added.

In response, Shas slammed Ben Gvir for creating fissures in the government and accused him of trying to bring down the coalition.

“The right-wing bloc discovered this evening that Itamar Ben Gvir is nothing but an inflated balloon,” Shas said in a statement, highlighting a “series of embarrassing failures in his areas of responsibility.”

The Shas party called Ben Gvir “all noise and no action,” and warned that his “childish antics and self-importance” are threatening to bring down the government from within.

“The right has always been brought down by people like him,” Shas said. “The public will judge.”

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