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Netanyahu, Ben-Gvir in spat over response to Gaza terror

“There will be a policy here of a right-wing government” or Otzma Yehudit will boycott Knesset votes, Itamar Ben-Gvir said.

Otzma Yehudit Chairman Itamar Ben-Gvir announces his party won't attend Knesset votes as long as he's not included in security discussions, May 3, 2023. Source: Twitter.
Otzma Yehudit Chairman Itamar Ben-Gvir announces his party won't attend Knesset votes as long as he's not included in security discussions, May 3, 2023. Source: Twitter.

The latest rocket barrage from the Gaza Strip sparked intra-coalition fighting on Wednesday between the Likud Party and one of its more right-wing partners seeking greater influence over policy in the fight against terror.

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir of the Otzma Yehudit announced that the party’s six Knesset members would boycott coalition votes after he wasn’t invited to a situational assessment meeting on Tuesday night by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Likud responded in a statement: “It is the prime minister who decides which are the relevant parties in the discussions. If this is not acceptable to the minister, he does not have to stay in the government.”

Ben-Gvir responded equally forcefully, telling reporters: “Prime Minister, if you don’t want Otzma Yehudit, you’re invited to fire us. If you don’t want a fully right-wing government, you’re welcome to send us home.

“I’m saying here that Otzma Yehudit won’t arrive to votes in the Knesset until the prime minister understands and internalizes that the purpose of this government is to be a fully right-wing government,” he added.

“I’m the minister of national security. My duty is to be a partner in security discussions. To the prime minister, I say this in the clearest terms: If he wants us to be in the government, and if he wants us to vote for the government, he needs to invite us to these discussions, and not only as a decoration, not like it was in the last four months, where the decisions were already decided ahead of time.

“If we’re partners, we need to be invited, but more important than that, to also influence. There will be a policy here of a right-wing government. If the prime minister wants it, we’ll be happy. If not, we’re not coming to votes from here on in,” Ben-Gvir said.

Bezalel Smotrich, head of the Religious Zionism Party, tried to calm the situation. In a video he posted to Twitter, he said, “My friends and partners in the government and coalition, let’s calm down. Internal discussions and debates can and should be conducted, and there is definitely a lot to improve. But we must keep the government united and not give a reward to terrorism and bring the left with the supporters of terrorism to power. We have four years to fix and improve things by working hard and together.”

Terrorists in Gaza fired more than 100 rockets towards the Jewish state in under 24 hours starting on Tuesday morning, setting off warning sirens in numerous communities for the remainder of the day and overnight.

One of the rockets hit a construction site in Sderot, with the shrapnel moderately wounding a 25-year-old foreign national and lightly wounding two other foreign workers.

Israel and Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip reached a ceasefire agreement early on Wednesday.

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