Ben-Gvir announces split from Religious Zionism
Ben-Gvir claims he spoke with Netanyahu, urging him to appoint Smotrich as defense minister.
Far-right Israeli lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir announced Friday his intention to split his Jewish Power faction from Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism party.
The official request will be handed to Israel’s parliament (Knesset) sometime next week.
This comes during ongoing coalition negotiations between prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu and the right-wing parties. Talks have reportedly stalled due to Smotrich’s demand to be appointed the defense portfolio.
During Ben-Gvir’s announcement, he claimed that he spoke with Netanyahu and urged him to appoint Smotrich as defense minister.
Ben-Gvir said that Smotrich’s desire to be given the defense portfolio is “legitimate” and would help the incoming government fulfill its “fully right-wing” vision. This includes the establishment of new Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the halting of Palestinian construction in Area C.
The Jewish Power leader continued that he is still in the same bloc as Smotrich, calling on both the prime minister-designate and Smotrich to find a solution and form a right-wing government.
This comes amid reports that U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides hinted to Netanyahu that the Biden administration opposed the idea of the defense ministry portfolio being given to Smotrich.
Reports also indicate that Smotrich is refusing to back down from his demand, turning down an offer of the foreign affairs portfolio.