Israel advances national guard force for right-wing minister

April 2, 2023  -TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government on Sunday gave preliminary approval for the creation of a national guard overseen by an ultranationalist Cabinet minister with a long record of anti-Arab rhetoric and stunts.

Netanyahu agreed to move ahead on the force last week after he postponed a contentious government plan to overhaul the judiciary as a way to keep National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir from quitting the coalition.

Critics say the new force is effectively a personal militia for Ben-Gvir, a former far-right activist who has been convicted several times for incitement and support for a Jewish terror group. Ben-Gvir says the force is meant to fill in gaps in areas where police are spread thin, including in crime-ridden Arab communities, as well as dealing with Arab-Jewish violence and other issues.

The force is expected to enlist hundreds at first and cost millions of dollars. The recruits’ precise duties and authorities were unclear.

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