Ben-Gvir criticizes Biden, says U.S. conduct would be different under Trump
The far-right Israeli official believes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is at a crossroads on negotiations for a Gaza ceasefire and hostage return
Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir gave his first foreign media interview since the governing coalition came together in late 2022, during which he made contentious remarks on the war in Gaza and U.S. support.
The backdrop of the interview was a ceasefire and hostage return deal, following the Hamas-led October 7 attack in which over 1,200 Israelis died and over 240 were abducted back to Gaza, but Ben-Gvir thinks the negotiations put Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “at a crossroads.”
Allies and Arab countries involved in the negotiations want to end the war that erupted after October 7, with some pushing the creation of a Palestinian state as a solution to the multifaceted crisis. Ben-Gvir, on the other hand, suggested repopulating Gaza with Israeli settlements and said Netanyahu “has to choose in what direction he’ll go.”
The far-right minister, who gained popularity in Israel since the October 7 attack, repeatedly voiced opposition to ending the war before Hamas was fully defeated and incapable of carrying out such massacres again, as well as being against freeing thousands of Palestinians imprisoned for terrorism in exchange for the return of Israeli hostages held in Gaza.
Instead, Ben-Gvir suggested a plan to “encourage Gazans to voluntarily emigrate to places around the world” by offering cash incentives, which would be “the real humanitarian” option, based on his own discussions with Palestinians in the West Bank and “intelligence material.”
He also expressed rare public criticism of a sitting U.S. president, “Instead of giving us his full backing, Biden is busy with giving humanitarian aid and fuel [to Gaza], which goes to Hamas.”
“If Trump was in power, the U.S. conduct would be completely different,” Ben-Gvir said, referring to the former president Donald Trump who is currently seeking a second term as the Republican frontrunner in the 2024 elections.
The sentiment has been growing stronger in Israel, with protests attempting to block aid convoys from passing cargo crossing points to Gaza. Furthermore, Ben-Gvir believed Biden hampered the war effort and Trump would give more freedom to fight Hamas.
Israeli Minister Benny Gantz, a war cabinet member, responded "It is permissible to have disputes, even with our largest and most important ally, but they must be conducted in the relevant forums and not in irresponsible statements in the media, which harm the strategic relations of the State of Israel, the security of the state and the war effort at this time."
"The Prime Minister should call to order the Minister of National Security, who instead of dealing with internal security issues - is causing enormous damage to Israel's foreign relations," the war cabinet minister concluded.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid was more harsh in his critique, calling Ben-Gvir's interview "a direct attack on Israel's international status, a direct attack on the war effort, harmful to Israel's security and above all proves that he understands nothing about foreign policy."
"I would call on the Prime Minister to restrain him, but Netanyahu has no control over the extremists in his government," he concluded.