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Itamar Ben-Gvir

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Itamar Ben-Gvir
Itamar Ben Gvir 1.jpg
Faction represented in the Knesset
2021–presentReligious Zionist Party
Personal details
Born (1976-05-06) 6 May 1976 (age 46)
Political partyOtzma Yehudit
Spouse(s)Ayala Nimrodi
Children5
EducationOno Academic College

Itamar Ben-Gvir (Hebrew: אִיתָמָר בֶּן גְּבִיר; born 6 May 1976) is an Israeli lawyer and politician and a leader in the Israeli far-right Otzma Yehudit party.[1] He is known for defending Jewish radicals on trial in Israel.[2] He has called for the expulsion of Arab citizens of Israel who are not loyal to Israel.[3] He is currently a member of the Knesset.

Biography

Itamar Ben-Gvir was born in Mevaseret Zion. His father was born in Jerusalem to Iraqi Jewish immigrants. He worked at a gasoline company and dabbled in writing. His mother was a Kurdish Jewish immigrant who had been active in the Irgun as a teenager and was a homemaker. His family was secular, but as a teenager, he adopted religious and radical right-wing views during the First Intifada. He first joined a right-wing youth movement affiliated with Moledet, a party which advocated transferring Arabs out of Israel, and then joined the youth movement of the even more radical Kach and Kahane Chai party, which was eventually outlawed by the Israeli government.[4] He became youth coordinator of Kach, and claimed that he was detained at age 14. When he came of age for conscription into the Israel Defense Forces at 18, he was exempted from service by the IDF due to his extreme-right political background.[2]

Ben-Gvir continued to be associated with the Kahanist movement,[5] of which his party, Otzma Yehudit is said to be one of the ideological successors to Kahane.[6] In the 1990s, he was active in protests against the Oslo Accords. In 1995, a few weeks before the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Ben-Gvir came to public attention for the first time when he appeared on television brandishing a Cadillac emblem that had been stolen from Rabin's car and declared: "We got to his car, and we'll get to him too."[2] However, when forming the Otzma Yehudit party, he claimed that it would not be a Kach Kahane Chai or splinter group.[7] He carried out a series of far-right activities that have resulted in dozens of indictments. In a November 2015 interview, he claimed to have been indicted 53 times.[8] In most cases, the charges were thrown out of court.[2]

Ben-Gvir is married to Ayala Nimrodi, a distant relative of Ofer Nimrodi, the former owner of the Maariv daily newspaper. The couple has five children, and they live in Hebron.[2]

Political career

Ben-Gvir was the parliamentary assistant in the 18th Knesset for Michael Ben-Ari.[7] On 23 July 2017, he was part of the leadership of a protest that included dozens of people outside of the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem. The protest was held by both Lehava and Otzma Yehudit.[9]

On 25 February 2019, Ben-Gvir said that Arab citizens of Israel who were not loyal to Israel "must be expelled".[3] Ben-Gvir had a photo of Baruch Goldstein, who massacred 29 Muslims at the Cave of the Patriarchs in 1994, hanging in his home;[10] he removed it in preparation for the 2020 Israeli legislative election in hope of being allowed to run on the unified right list headed by Naftali Bennett.[11]

Ben-Gvir had planned to run for a seat in the Knesset in the September 2019 Israeli legislative election in the first slot of a combined Noam/Otzma Yehudit electoral list[12] though the two parties split over Otzma's inclusion of a secular candidate on the combined list (which Noam disagreed with).[13] Ben-Gvir was in the third slot[14] of a joint list that includes Otzma Yehudit, Noam and the Religious Zionist Party that ran in the 2021 Israeli legislative election.[15] He was elected to the Knesset as the alliance won six seats.[16]

In May 2021, he was reported to be frequenting the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, in a show of solidarity with Jewish settlers who live there.[17]

Legal career

Ben-Gvir sometimes represented himself during his many indictments, and at the suggestion of several judges, he decided to study law. Ben-Gvir studied law at the Ono Academic College.[2] At the end of his studies, the Israel Bar Association blocked him from taking the bar exam on grounds of his criminal record. Ben-Gvir claimed the decision was politically motivated. After a series of appeals, this decision was overturned, but it was ruled that Ben-Gvir would first have to settle three criminal cases in which he was charged at the time. After being acquitted in all three cases on charges including holding an illegal gathering and disturbing a civil servant, Ben-Gvir was allowed to take the exam. He passed the written and oral examinations, and was granted a license to practice law.[18][19]

As a lawyer, Ben-Gvir has represented a series of far-right Jewish activists suspected of terrorism and hate crimes. Notable clients include Benzi Gopstein and two teenagers charged in the Duma arson attack. Haaretz described Ben-Gvir as the "go-to man" for Jewish extremists facing legal trouble, and reported that his client list "reads like a 'Who's Who' of suspects in Jewish terror cases and hate crimes in Israel".[2] Ben-Gvir is also the lawyer for Lehava, a far-right Israeli anti-assimilation organization which is active in opposing Jewish intermarriage with non-Jews,[20][21] and has sued the waqf.[22]

Ben-Gvir says that his work as a lawyer for far-right Jewish activists is motivated by a desire to help them, and not for money.[2]

Controversy

In October 2021, Ben Gvir and Joint List leader Ayman Odeh had a physical confrontation during a visit to the Kaplan Medical Center to see Miqdad Qawasmeh, a Hamas operative who had been on a hunger strike for over three months of his administrative detention. Ben Gvir was against Qawasmeh being treated in an Israeli hospital, and stated that he had visited to check the detainee's conditions, as well as to "see up close this miracle that a person remains alive despite not eating for several months". As Ben Gvir attempted to enter Qawasmeh’s room, he accused Odeh of being a terrorist for supporting extremists like Qawasmeh. Odeh then struck first, pushing Ben Gvir, and the pair began to scuffle before being separated by bystanders.[23] Ben Gvir later filed a complaint against Odeh claiming that he had "committed a serious criminal act".[24]

In December 2021, Ben Gvir was investigated after a video surfaced of him pulling a handgun on Arab security guards during a parking dispute in the underground garage of the Expo Tel Aviv conference center. The guards asked Ben Gvir to move his vehicle as he was parked in a prohibited space. He then drew a pistol and brandished it at the guards.[25] Both parties taunted each other, and Ben Gvir claimed that he felt his life threatened. The guards were unarmed.[26] He was criticized by lawmakers across the aisle, and the incident was investigated.[27]

In January 2022, his level of security was increased. Due to frequent death threats, Ben Gvir is to be accompanied by multiple security guards in public, and extra security measures are taken to ensure his safety.[28]

References

  1. ^ "Otzma Yehudit leaders attack Jewish Home over Amona". Israel National News. 11 December 2016. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Maltz, Judy (4 January 2016). "The Lawyer for Jewish Terrorists Who Started Out by Stealing Rabin's Car Emblem". Haaretz. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  3. ^ a b Magid, Jacob (24 February 2019). "Otzma Yehudit candidate: Critics have to go back 30 years in order to attack us". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  4. ^ Goldberg, Elisheva (5 November 2012). "'Kahane For Kids'". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  5. ^ Bar-Stav, Liat (3 January 2015). "Inside radical right-wing group Lehava". Ynetnews. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  6. ^ Holmes, Oliver (24 March 2021). "'Racist and reprehensible': Jewish Power set to enter Israel's parliament,'". The Guardian.
  7. ^ a b Harkov, Lahav (28 October 2012). "The new Kach? Ben-Ari, Marzel, Ben Gvir form party". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
  8. ^ "פרק 8: סיבוב בחברון עם מרזל ובן גביר". ערוץ 7.
  9. ^ "'The people expect vengeance'". Israel National News. 23 July 2017. Retrieved 24 July 2017.
  10. ^ Harkov, Lahav (25 February 2019). "Netanyahu's deflection of his involvement with Otzma - analysis". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  11. ^ "בן גביר: "הסרתי את תמונת גולדשטיין כדי למנוע ממשלת שמאל"". Ynet (in Hebrew). 15 January 2020.
  12. ^ Hacohen, Hagay (31 July 2019). "Noam, Otzma Yehudit to run together in September elections". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 31 July 2019.
  13. ^ Baruch, Hezki (1 August 2019). "Otzma Yehudit and Noam cancel joint run". Arutz Sheva. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  14. ^ Staff writer (3 February 2021). "Israel Election 2021: All the Official Party Lists So Far". Haaretz. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
  15. ^ Staff writer (3 February 2021). "Religious Zionist, Otzma Yehudit parties to run together". Arutz Sheva. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
  16. ^ Wootliff, Raoul; Magid, Jacob (26 March 2021). "Reform rabbi, Kahanist agitator, firebrand writer: The new Knesset's 16 rookies". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  17. ^ "PM's office reportedly warned Ben-Gvir to leave East J'lem after threat of Hamas rocket attack". i24 News. 8 May 2021. Retrieved 10 May 2021.
  18. ^ "איתמר בן גביר לא יוכל להתמחות כעורך דין". וואלה! חדשות (in Hebrew). 19 January 2011.
  19. ^ "בתום מאבק ממושך: איתמר בן גביר - עו"ד". Makor Rishon (in Hebrew). 21 June 2012.
  20. ^ Winer, Stuart (16 December 2014). "Police arrest head of anti-assimilation group Lehava". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  21. ^ "Police blacklist LGBT parade protesters". Israel National News. 13 August 2017. Retrieved 14 August 2017.
  22. ^ "Are police afraid of Itamar Ben-Gvir?". Israel National News. 12 August 2016. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  23. ^ "Ayman Odeh, Itamar Ben Gvir clash at hospital by Palestinian prisoner's bed". www.timesofisrael.com. Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  24. ^ "Arab-Israeli Leader to Be Probed for Shoving Kahanist Lawmaker". Haaretz. Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  25. ^ "Kahanist Lawmaker Pulls Gun on Arab Security Guard Who Asked Him to Move Car". Haaretz. Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  26. ^ Winer, Stuart. "Far-right MK Ben Gvir pulls gun on Arab security guards in clash over parking". www.timesofisrael.com. Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  27. ^ Winer, Stuart. "Far-right MK Ben Gvir summoned by Knesset security over gun incident in parking lot". www.timesofisrael.com. Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  28. ^ staff, T. O. I. "Police increase security around far-right MK Ben Gvir amid death threats". www.timesofisrael.com. Retrieved 12 February 2022.