Netanyahu's appointment of far-right figure as national security minister raises concerns in Israel

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The appointment of an Israeli far-right politician, who had a record of hostility toward Palestinians, as Israel's next national security minister raised concerns and worries over possible future violence.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, the leader of the ultra-nationalist party of Jewish Power, was given a newly-created position of national security minister, the Likud announced in a statement over the weekend.

The position will be an extended version of the public security minister, under which Ben-Gvir will be in charge of the police and paramilitary Border Police that operates alongside army soldiers in Palestinian population areas, according to the statement.

The new government is expected to be led by Netanyahu, Israel's longest-serving leader, who was ousted just a year and a half ago and is standing trial on corruption charges.

Netanyahu and an alliance of three far-right parties and two Jewish ultra-Orthodox parties received the majority of votes in the parliamentary elections on Nov. 1, which came after almost four years of inconclusive elections.

It is expected to be the most right-wing government in Israeli history, reported local media, raising concerns in the political arena that Ben-Gvir might spark violence in Israel and the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned of moving the Border Police, which has been under the oversight of the Defense Ministry to Ben-Gvir's National Security Ministry, accusing Netanyahu of giving Ben-Gvir a "private army" and warned of "security chaos."

Former Military Chief of Staff and lawmaker Gadi Eisenkot criticized on his Facebook the decision as "a sad joke at the expense of the citizens of Israel," adding the appointment has been done as part of the coalition's political horse-trading "without any connection to the reality and the state needs."

For his part, Nachman Shai, a minister with the outgoing government, warned in public remarks of a possible change to the status quo in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a site holy to both Muslims and Jews.

Ben-Gvir, who visits the site frequently, has called to change the status quo at the site, which allows Jews to visit it but not to pray there.

Shai said that the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound has been a focal point of tensions over the past years and due to its sensitivity, "any change at the site might shake the Muslim and Arab world" and spark another wave of violence.

The flashpoint site is located in East Jerusalem, an area that Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed shortly later, in a move that has never been recognized by the majority of the international community.

Ben-Gvir, a 46-year-old resident of the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, holds an extremely hardline stance on security subjects.

During his recent election campaign, he promised to "grant legal immunity to Israeli soldiers who shoot Palestinians" to deport Arab legislators and to end Palestinian autonomy in parts of the occupied West Bank.

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