Israel’s US backers face ‘moment of reckoning’ as far right rises
He has called for expelling “disloyal” citizens of Israel, idolised a mass shooter responsible for a deadly assault on a Hebron mosque in 1994, and called for loosening rules of engagement to make it easier for Israeli forces to shoot Palestinians.
Itamar Ben-Gvir is poised to take up a prominent post in the next Israeli government after this week’s elections saw his far-right Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) Party emerge with record support.
In the United States, which remains Israel’s most important international ally, Ben-Gvir’s ascent has already drawn concerns, including from some of the country’s staunchest backers in the US Congress.
While the gains of Israel’s far right will not rock US-Israeli ties, analysts have said the election results will make it more difficult for liberal US supporters of Israel to keep defending the country.
“The inclusion of far-right Jewish supremacists in Israel’s governing coalition will add to the ongoing narrative shift that is making it increasingly difficult for folks to continue to make excuses for Israel’s war crimes and human rights violations,” said Tariq Kenney-Shawa, US policy fellow at Al-Shabaka, a Palestinian think-tank.
Ben-Gvir’s party and its religious Zionist allies are set to become the third-largest bloc in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, positioning them to play a decisive role in a right-wing coalition that will likely see former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu return to power.
Ben-Gvir, who claims to have moderated his anti-Palestinian positions in recent years, defended himself against criticism from a US lawmaker before the election, saying that Israel’s enemies were trying to “besmirch” him by calling him and his party racist. “The truth is that we are anti-racist – we are fighting against the racist antisemitism fomenting within the boundaries of our homeland,” he said in a statement last month, as reported by The Times of Israel.