Despite their differences, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir bear one another to keep the government afloat. As Netanyahu feels the need for Ben-Gvir's support even more for the budget vote, Ben-Gvir is trying to get what he wants as the vote approaches. The Netanyahu-led coalition government has to pass the budget by May 29, otherwise the Knesset (Israel's parliament) may be dissolved and elections may take place. As opinion polls show growing popularity of the opposition National Unity Party, led by former Defense Minister Benny Gantz, experts opine that if Gantz agrees to join the Netanyahu cabinet, Ben-Gvir may find himself outside the government. Gantz, on the other hand, has repeatedly said that he does not intend to join the Netanyahu government. Ben-Gvir's fear of Gantz Speaking to Anadolu, Jonathan Freeman, a political science professor, said there is a link between Gantz's rising popularity in the polls and Ben-Gvir's fears of the former defense minister joining the government. Since the government was formed late last year, various statements have been made by Ben-Gvir's Otzma Yehudit Party, but there is a big difference between what the far-right minister and his party want and what they actually get, he said. The Israeli professor said that as polls show that the popularity of Ben-Gvir's party is declining, the far-right minister fears that if elections are held, he will have nothing to offer to his supporters. What Netanyahu will do particularly to persuade Ben-Gvir to support the budget will determine the equation, he added. According to Freeman, the growing popularity of Gantz and his party is a concern for Netanyahu and could affect his relationship with Ben-Gvir. It is in the interests of both Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir that the government remains in office, he added. Freeman believes that Ben-Gvir and his party officials don't want to lose ministerial posts as well as their seats in parliament given that they hold ministerial positions for the first time. For Netanyahu, the most important issue right now is the budget. Therefore, Israel's longest-serving prime minister can make concessions to Ben-Gvir to avoid an early election, he added. Freeman noted that the far-right Religious Zionism Party, led by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, does not support Ben-Gvir's boycott. 'This is interesting as both Smotrich and Ben-Gvir took part in the elections with a single list,' he added. Ben-Gvir's demands Ben-Gvir recently ended his boycott of government meetings following Israeli airstrikes on the blockaded Gaza Strip in which at least 33 Palestinians were killed. The far-right politician has called for launching large-scale military operations in Gaza and the occupied West Bank and has opposed the handover of the bodies of Palestinians accused by Tel Aviv of involvement in attacks against Israelis. Ben-Gvir also wants the government to hasten Palestinian house demolitions in occupied East Jerusalem and is championing an immunity bill for Israeli soldiers. His Otzma Yehudit Party garnered six seats in the 120-seat Knesset in the last election and is a partner in the right-wing coalition government. In case of Ben-Gvir's withdrawal of support for the government in the Knesset, Netanyahu-led coalition will lose its majority, leaving the government at the risk of collapse if the budget could not be passed. Ben-Gvir's party has criticized the proposed budget as it fails to satisfy the amount of discretionary funding allocated to the Negev, Galilee and National Resilience Ministry, which Otzma Yehudit holds, according to Israeli media. Ben-Gvir and his party are seen by coalition partners as 'the weak link' and a fraction that may cause the government collapse before elections scheduled to be held in 2026. Government collapse unlikely According to Israeli Channel 12, despite their public bickering, the government is not likely to collapse because Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir have no other alternative. Netanyahu's team evaluated that "Ben-Gvir may pose a threat in the future" before the elections, and 'there is a great divide between what the government could achieve and Ben-Gvir's demands,' the broadcaster said. On the other hand, Ben-Gvir's actions, which are also criticized in the international arena, cause discomfort in Netanyahu's right-wing Likud Party. Speaking to Israeli public broadcaster KAN, Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis said regarding the far-right minister's boycott, 'my suggestion to Ben-Gvir is that he stop using childish boycotts of governmental meetings and Knesset votes. That's not the way things work.' Ben-Gvir's recent actions were met with negative reactions in Israel, with many Israelis arguing that the extremist minister should be sacked, according opinion polls.
Source: Anadolu Agency