Netanyahu reverses, insists Ben-Gvir ‘certainly can’ be a cabinet minister

Prior to 2021 elections, Benjamin Netanyahu insisted that MK Itamar Ben-Gvir was “not fit” to serve in the cabinet.

By David Hellerman, World Israel News

Reversing course in the final stretch of Israel’s election campaign, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Religious Zionism MK Itamar Ben-Gvir “can certainly” be a cabinet minister, should the right-wing bloc form a new government.

Ahead of Israel’s March 2021 elections, Netanyahu said that Ben-Gvir was “not fit” to serve in the cabinet or chair a Knesset committee.

Netanyahu was speaking at a conference hosted by Israel’s Channel 14 on Sunday evening where he was asked point blank whether Ben-Gvir could be a minister in Netanyahu’s cabinet.

“He certainly can; anyone can,” Netanyahu said. “He will be, and whoever is elected from the Religious Zionism [party can serve as a minister]. But I assume [Ben Gvir] will be elected, and it’s completely clear.”

Ben-Gvir, a right-wing politician who has sparked controversy due to his staunchly nationalist policies, has long been the object of scorn from left-wing and centrist parties.

Ben-Gvir is the number two person in the Religious Zionism party and leads its Kahanist Otzma Yehudit faction. Public opinion polls indicate that Religious Zionism may nearly double its number of Knesset seats from six to 13.

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In August, Netanyahu brokered an agreement for Otzma Yehudit to merge its list with Religious Zionism, with MK Betzalel Smotrich being the party’s overall leader.

Despite Netanyahu’s comments, the opposition leader has made a point not to be photographed with Ben-Gvir. At a recent holiday event in Kfar Chabad Netanyahu refused to stand on the same stage as the Religious Zionism MK.

Israel is holding its fifth election in four years on November 1.