Israel Authorizes Formation of National Guard to Combat Arab Unrest

Israeli security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir

The Israeli government has authorized the formation of a national guard, as proposed by the far-right security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who said it would concentrate on Arab unrest.

In May 2021, in response to pro-Palestinian demonstrations in mixed Jewish-Arab areas during the Israel-Gaza conflict, the previous government began establishing an auxiliary police force to combat internal political violence. However, this administration terminated prior to the completion of the force.

Ben-Gvir’s attempts to resurrect such a force has been criticized by opponents, who say that he is establishing a sectarian “militia”.

The precise powers of the new national guard will be discussed by a committee comprised of all Israeli security agencies, which will make recommendations within 90 days, according to a statement released by the prime minister’s office on Sunday.

Ben-Gvir stated that government funding will facilitate an initial intake of 1,850 personnel for the new force, adding that these could include seconded police officers and volunteers from the Arab sector.

He stated that it would take months to establish the national guard and that he was concurrently attempting to fill police positions.

Who would have primary authority over the national guard was initially unclear.

Ben-Gvir, a zealous Jewish settler from the occupied West Bank with a history of convictions for supporting terrorism and inciting violence against Israel’s Arabs – who make up 21% of the country’s population – ascended the political ranks in part due to the disturbance of 2021.

Israel’s police chief, Insp. Gen. Kobi Shabtai, reportedly expressed reservations about the new force in a letter to Ben-Gvir, while a number of Arab leaders have spoken out against the decision.