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Netanyahu meets Ben-Gvir in bid to ease coalition tensions

The national security minister was excluded from a recent security assessment, and is reportedly frustrated by the coalition's unwillingness to harshen conditions for security prisoners.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir at the Knesset in Jerusalem. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir at the Knesset in Jerusalem. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on Sunday with National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir in a bid to mend fences amid reported tensions.

Ben-Gvir is reportedly displeased at being excluded from a high-level security briefing earlier in the day, as well as by the government’s apparent unwillingness to enhance restrictions on Palestinian terrorists imprisoned in Israel.

The two men reportedly met at the Dan Hotel in Caesarea, close to where the premier maintains a private residence.

Senior officials in Netanyahu’s Likud Party also reportedly reached out to Ben-Gvir, stressing that the government would fall if his Otzma Yehudit Party quits the coalition.

On Sunday, Netanyahu held a high-level security assessment amid ongoing terrorist threats from Judea and Samaria and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, and as Iran presses forward with its nuclear program.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) Director Ronen Bar were among those attending, with Itamar Ben-Gvir conspicuously absent.

“He comes to meetings and constantly strives for targeted assassinations, a ban on bringing in workers from Gaza and various closures on all kinds of villages and cities in Judea and Samaria,” Ynet later quoted a source as saying of Ben-Gvir.

“He does not understand that with such a policy, the prime minister cannot fly anywhere and he certainly will not be granted receptions around the world,” added the source.

Netanyahu’s office later released a statement according to which the premier had held a “routine discussion” with Ben-Gvir that “did not deal with domestic security issues at all.

“Any attempt to create a conflict between the prime minister and the minister of national security and to attribute this to factors on behalf of the premier is patently false. The prime minister and Minister Ben-Gvir will continue to work in full cooperation for the benefit of all the citizens of Israel,” added the statement.

Ben-Gvir has been pushing to tighten restrictions on security prisoners, a term generally referring to Palestinians held for nationalistically motivated attacks or membership in terrorist groups.

The minister earlier this year ordered showering time reduced to four minutes per prisoner, with a total of one hour of running water for each prison wing where terrorists are held. He also ordered the closure of prison bakeries.

In response, Palestinian terrorists in Israeli jails sent a warning letter to the minister, saying: “If they touch our conditions—blood will be spilled. With steps against the security prisoners, he [Ben-Gvir] is going to set the region on fire…. We will respond to him with a war of liberation.”

In a statement at that time, Ben-Gvir’s office replied: “The policies of the minister are designed to deny perks and benefits to imprisoned terrorists as far as the law permits, and most certainly to deny them benefits that for some reason are granted only to terrorists and not to prisoners behind bars for other types of crime.”

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