MK Cassif: “Ben Gvir Law is Dangerous and Fascist”

The fascist Otzma Yehudit party said Thursday morning that it had reached an agreement with incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party on the key content to be featured in their yet-to-be-signed coalition deal, hours after Netanyahu formally notified President Isaac Herzog that he had succeeded in cobbling together what will be Israel’s most reactionary government yet.

Racist MK Itamar Ben Gvir at the Knesset plenum, Monday, December 21, 2022 (Photo: Knesset)

According to an Otzma Yehudit statement, the parties agreed to hand party leader MK Itamar Ben Gvir the deputy chair position on the ministerial panel that determines the government’s position on legislation, a role he has demanded in hopes of using it as a vehicle for veto power over bills he wants to quash. In addition, the Otzma Yehudit readout said that an agreement was reached on principles and legislation to be advanced on supporting occupation forces, promoting “Jewish identity” and reforming the judicial system. The party did not specify which points were principles and which would be converted into bills.

Deliberations continued on Wednesday at the Knesset over a controversial law being proposed by the anticipated incoming far-right coalition that would put the Israel police under the jurisdiction of a new position, the National Security minister. The “Ben Gvir Law”, named for its author has raised concern among opposition members in the Knesset and human rights groups who believe the law will turn Israel into a police state. Ben Gvir insisted that he wanted to expel Arab and far leftist members of the Knesset and Israel, such as MKs Ayman Odeh, Ahmad Tibi and Ofer Cassif from the Hadash-Ta’al parliamentary faction.

“This law is a dangerous law, it is a fascist law,” Cassif told journalists. “It actually, in practice, eliminates the distinction that must exist between the police and government.” Ben Gvir – who served neither in the army nor police – would become the de facto police chief and also be in charge of the border police’s operations in the occupied West Bank. Cassif said that the law would create a situation in which the minister would be able to use the police to target political or ideological opponents. He would be able to approve or deny permits for protests at his discretion.

“The coming minister, unfortunately, is a Jewish fascist and fundamentalist. That means that he sees, in any component which is not Jewish, a risk or at least an alien,” Cassif said. “He’s not going to persecute those who, according to him, assist Israel and the settlers, etc. But he is going to persecute worship.”

Ironically, it could be Knesset members like communist Cassif of the Hadash front who will now protect the interests of Christians supporters of Israel should they be threatened by the new government, he said.  “There is a serious risk for everybody who doesn’t accept the political and religious line of Ben Gvir and his companions. Everybody is on the list. That’s the nature of fascism: If you’re not with us, you are against us. And that’s what’s going to happen, especially if this law is going to be enacted. That’s the reason we give a fight here.”

At a fiery debate at the Knesset on Wednesday, members of the incoming coalition joined Cassif in offering their arguments. The bill passed a first reading earlier this week and needs to pass a second and third reading in order to become law.  With a majority of 64 members in the expected incoming coalition, however, the law is expected to pass next week.