Netanyahu Accuses Security Minister Ben-Gvir of Leaking State Secrets, Government in Crisis

Growing fractures threaten to collapse Netanyahu’s far-right coalition

Major fractures within Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling coalition threaten to collapse the government, reports the New Arab. Netanyahu’s grip on power depends on the support of extremist and ultra-orthodox parties. But the Israeli leader is increasingly at odds with his National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, head of the Jewish Power party, whom he has accused of leaking state secrets. Other disputes have also led some factions to threaten they will leave the coalition.

One critical controversy is Ben-Gvir’s demand to join the now disbanded Israeli war cabinet, which was formed shortly after the October 7 attack and the onset of the ensuing onslaught in Gaza. Netanyahu dissolved the body on Monday, following the resignations of former Defense Minister Benny Gantz and MK Gadi Eisenkot, both of the National Unity party. The prime minister will replace the emergency government with a limited consultative team.

“Netanyahu told Minister Ben-Gvir one simple thing: ‘Whoever wants to be a partner in a limited security consultation team must prove that he is not leaking state secrets or private conversations,’” Netanyahu’s Likud party stated.

In response to Likud, Jewish Power proclaimed they would support a bill forcing ministers to submit to lie detector tests only if it “applies to those with pacemakers” as well. Netanyahu was fitted for a pacemaker recently.

The latest point of contention comes after Netanyahu implored Ben-Gvir to back the ‘Rabbi Law,’ which will “shift decision-making for the appointment of rabbis from local councils to the Shas-led ministry of religious affairs, which critics say will embed clientelism in the process for the benefit of the ultra-Orthodox party.” The Shas party, an ultra-orthodox partner, has demanded the bill’s passing as a condition for remaining within the Likud-led coalition.

Fearing he lacked enough support to get the law passed, the embattled prime minister shelved the vote on Wednesday. Subsequently, Arye Dery, the head of the Shas party, called Netanyahu and threatened to quit the fragile government. This fight could collapse the coalition and it is unlikely Netanyahu can survive new elections without Jewish Power or Shas backing him.

Ben-Gvir is a radical Jewish supremacist who has called for Palestinian women and children to be shot dead if they approach the Gaza border and insisted Palestinian prisoners should be executed to free up Israeli prison space. Additionally, the national security minister has consistently endorsed ethnic cleansing and Israeli re-settlement of the besieged and bombed-out coastal enclave where nearly 40,000 Palestinians have been slaughtered, along with more than 85,000 maimed, by Israeli military forces.

Another issue that risks Netanyahu’s position is the move to subject some members of the politically powerful ultra-orthodox student community to conscription. So far this community, which is subsidized by the citizenry, is exempt from the military draft while hundreds of Israeli troops have died and thousands more wounded in the Gaza ground campaign.

Ben-Gvir is in trouble as well, as Israel’s High Court is raising alarms regarding his unprecedented power over the police due to a vexed law passed when Netanyahu returned to power in December 2022. Watchdog groups have petitioned the court to repeal the law which they say threatens the right to protest and freedom of expression.

Beyond his myriad political vulnerabilities, Netanyahu is facing harsh criticism from his military over the impossible objectives of the brutal campaign in the Gaza Strip. On Wednesday, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman, excoriated Netanyahu during an interview with Israel’s Channel 13 News.

“This business of destroying Hamas, making Hamas disappear – it’s simply throwing sand in the eyes of the public,” he said. Hagari added, “Hamas is an idea, Hamas is a party. It’s rooted in the hearts of the people – whoever thinks we can eliminate Hamas is wrong.”

This weekend, the Israeli military announced they would begin daily tactical pauses along one of the main roads in Gaza to relieve a backlog of aid shipments. Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir deemed this “unacceptable” and called for the sacking of whoever was responsible for conceiving of the new policy. The supposed humanitarian aid route has led to no changes on the ground, according to the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA). The entire population of Gaza is facing catastrophic levels of food insecurity and hundreds of thousands are suffering from full-blown famine conditions resulting from the IDF’s blockade and wholesale destruction of the Strip’s infrastructure.

Connor Freeman is the assistant editor and a writer at the Libertarian Institute, primarily covering foreign policy. He is a co-host on the Conflicts of Interest podcast. His writing has been featured in media outlets such as, Counterpunch, and the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. He has also appeared on Liberty Weekly, Around the Empire, and Parallax Views. You can follow him on Twitter @FreemansMind96.