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Israel's police chief concerned National Guard under Ben Gvir's control could 'cause serious damage' to country's security

National security minister dismisses concern, says senior officials in police don't want National Guard because of 'ego wars'

Israeli Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir and Israeli Chief of Police Kobi Shabtai hold a press conference at the Ministry of National Security in Jerusalem, Jan. 24, 2023. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel’s Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai wrote to National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir on Sunday, asking him to meet and discuss Shabtai’s concerns about the establishment of the National Guard under the National Security Ministry. 

Shabtai wrote that the force shouldn’t be established “without having a detailed discussion in the cabinet in which the Police’s position on the matter would be heard.” 

Shabtai expressed concern that another policing body would harm the operational capabilities of the existing security establishment.  

“The establishment of the Guard as an independent body separate from the police, directly subordinate to the Ministry of National Security, is liable to cause serious damage to the operational capabilities of the internal security systems in the country due to damage to the unity of command, and mainly – lack of clarity regarding the commanding entity,” Shabtai said. 

Ben Gvir’s office responded with a statement dismissing Shabtai’s concerns. 

“There are senior officials in the police who don’t want a national guard because of ego wars,” the statement said. “The minister gave the police three months to present serious plans [for a national guard under the police] but, in practice, there has been no progress.” 

The minister’s office stated that Ben Gvir is still open to creating the national guard under the police. 

“If the police present a serious plan, we will consider in good faith the option of doing so through the police. If not, the guard will operate under the National Security Ministry,” the office said. 

Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara opposes the decision to create a national guard under Ben Gvir, saying her opposition is due to a “legal impediment” to establishing the force. 

According to N12, the legal impediment involves the overlapping of duties between a National Guard and the Israel Police. Her office has not released a detailed explanation of the legal basis for her opposition, which could come if the cabinet approves the creation of the force. 

Ben Gvir is not the first minister to make a bid for a National Guard in Israel. The previous government under opposition leaders Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid also tried in June 2022 to create a Civil National Guard, passing an initial budget of $392 million for around 1,800 employees. 

Israel’s then-National Security Council and Public Security Ministry made a joint pitch for the force, to be composed of active-duty soldiers, reserve officers and volunteers trained by the Israel Border Police. At the time, Bennett suggested a National Guard could help in the face of a rise in violent terror attacks.

Not even a year after the Bennett-Lapid attempt at launching the Guard, opposition leader Lapid warned that the Israeli government will have to make budgetary cuts in order to fund Ben Gvir’s proposed National Guard. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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