Israel High Court concerned about Ben-Gvir’s powers over police

Ben-Gvir is among Israel’s most prominent extreme-right politicians [Getty/file photo]

Israel’s High Court has raised concerns over a 2022 law granting extreme-right minister Itamar Ben-Gvir unprecedented powers over police policy, the Times of Israel reported on Tuesday.

Watchdog groups are petitioning the Israeli court to strike down the law, fearing that rights such as freedom of expression and the right to protest could be violated under the law’s terms.

The law, passed in December 2022, gave Ben-Gvir broad powers over the Israeli police, giving him the power to define policy on investigations and effectively making the police subservient to the government.

The bill states that the minister is empowered to “delineate the police’s policies and the general principles of its operation,” including “priorities, work programs, and general guidelines”.

Petition organisers have accused Ben-Gvir of abusing his power over the police and interfering on an operational level, imposing his far-right tendencies. 

Several reports have emerged over recent months detailing Ben-Gvir’s arguments with Police Commissioner Kobi Shavtai over the minister’s intervention in the police force. In May, Shavtai was heard saying that he’s grown “sick of” him, in a private conversation with colleagues, Haaretz reported.

Ben-Gvir pushed for the text of the law to be adopted as an essential condition for him to join the coalition of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, following the 2022 elections results.

Acting Supreme Court President Uzi Vogelman and Justice Noam Sohlberg have called into question the fact that Ben-Gvir can dictate general policy over police investigations without approval or even a real consultative process with the attorney general, the Times of Israel reported.

Ben-Gvir’s attorney Nadav Haetzni, however, argued that Israeli democracy would be “under threat” if the public’s representatives in government did not have a say in police policy.

His claims were rejected by the petition organisers, the Times of Israel said.

Ben-Gvir’s bill was passed with 61 votes for and 55 against, amid opposition from political rivals, back in December 2022.

The minister, who also heads of the extreme-right Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party, has staunchly advocated for the continuation of the war in Gaza, which has already killed at least 37,393 Palestinians.

Ben-Gvir has also called for the expulsion of Palestinians from Gaza, the resettlement of Jews in the territory and the execution of Palestinian prisoners to “free up space” in Israeli jails.

Throughout his political career, Ben-Gvir had made racist and inflammatory remarks regarding Palestinians, and has been charged by police on multiple accounts of incitement. 

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