Israel’s President Isaac Herzog summoned far-right leader Itamar Ben-Gvir to express concerns on behalf of “large sections of the nation” as well as the Jewish world about the incoming government.
The rare message to Ben-Gvir was meant to “calm the stormy winds” while calling on him to be “attentive to and internalise the criticism surrounding the ‘racism clause’ and surrounding attitudes to different groups in society, especially the LGBT community and the Arab population”.
Herzog referred to a highly controversial clause in the coalition agreement between the Jewish Power party and Likud that promises to cancel a law that currently bans individuals who incite to racism from running for Knesset.
Three of Ben-Gvir’s closest associates, far-right extremists Bentzi Gopstein, Baruch Marzel and Michal Ben-Ari, were barred by the Supreme Court from running in the 2019 election over incitement to racism.
The law was, paradoxically, sponsored by Likud in 1985 to bar Ben-Gvir’s ideological mentor, Meir Kahane, from running for Knesset over his racist and violent political views.
Herzog rarely intervenes in Israeli politics, especially legislative processes. His public rebuke of Ben-Gvir and the far-right’s controversial law proposals, some of which would directly harm members of the LGBTQ community and Arab Israelis, is therefore highly unusual.
“The President emphasised to Mr. Ben-Gvir that his role, and the role of all elements of the future coalition, is to work for all sections of the nation, in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence,” a statement issued following their meeting on Wednesday said.
Ben-Gvir made a promise to the President that neither the Jewish Power or Religious Zionism parties “intend to exclude or harm any population groups”.
Representatives of Religious Zionism were attacked by medical professionals, banks, high-tech, LGBTQ community members, lawmakers as well as incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for saying that doctors should be allowed to refuse patients and businesses turn away costumers if it it contradicts their “religious beliefs”.
Herzog has made it his mission to embrace all Israeli citizens, ranging from the most hard-core settlers in Hebron to the LGBTQ community.
The message delivered to Ben-Gvir is also a sign that Herzog is trying to ease the tensions between the Israeli government and the Jewish Diaspora, which are currently at an all-time low.
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