National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir warned earlier this week about an Operation “Guardian of the Walls 2,” which he said requires Israel to immediately strengthen its police force. Ben-Gvir said his warning is based on situational assessments from police and Israel Defense Forces officials, although it’s not clear whether the Shin Bet security service shares those concerns.
It’s hard to understand what the minister means exactly when he uses the term “Guardian of the Walls 2.” Does he anticipate violent clashes in Israel’s mixed cities as in May 2021, or does he mean friction on the Temple Mount that will lead to such violence?
Ben-Gvir’s warning should be taken seriously, given his recent defiant and provocative statement that “With all due respect to Jordan, Israel is an independent country. I have ascended the Temple Mount, I will continue to ascend the Temple Mount.” The minister said this a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised Jordan’s King Abdullah he would preserve the status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites.
Ben-Gvir, who quickly made his presence felt at the Temple Mount right after he was appointed minister, made clear that if Israel does find itself in another situation similar to the one that led to Operation Guardian of the Walls, he may well be its catalyst – in that it will be his actions that decide if and when a dangerous confrontation occurs.
To cope with the threat, Ben-Gvir is demanding a dramatic increase in the police’s budget in order to enable forming a national guard subordinate to him like the Border Police in the West Bank is, as well as significant pay increases for police officers and the recruitment of 10,000 volunteers.
While Ben-Gvir says that the national guard will be subordinate to the chief of police, in order to ensure it doesn’t become a political tool, the coalition agreements say otherwise. According to the agreements, the Border Police, which is being removed from the police, will form the backbone of the projected national guard manned by volunteers. Together they will form a new entity subordinate to the minister.
Ben-Gvir is setting the stage for a parallel armed militia that won’t answer the police. It will be a militia competing with the IDF in the territories, whose goals, rules of conduct and opening fire will be determined by a minister who holds a bag of explosives that can set the place ablaze at any moment.
That’s a plan that should alarm every law-abiding Israeli, who may one day face civilians armed and enjoying far-reaching powers, whose actions are dictated by a loose cannon of a politician.
Abandoning the plan altogether is the only way to ensure that law enforcement is not placed in the hands of a militia.