Itamar Ben Gvir
Itamar Ben GvirArutz Sheva

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir spoke to Arutz Sheva - Israel National News about the reason behind the release of Arab prisoners, Minister Benny Gantz's independent trip to the US, the allegations against him as someone who seeks to set the entire region on fire, the challenge of haredi conscription, and the Attorney General's attitude to him.

Regarding the release of dozens of security prisoners in what was defined as administrative release because of a lack of space, Minister Ben Gvir stated that this is a gesture initiated by the head of the Shin Bet: "They can deny this a thousand times and say that this was because of a shortage of space, and there really is a shortage of space in the prisons, but if there is a shortage of space, release Jewish administrative prisoners, release tax offenders. Why are Arab administrative prisoners being released?"

Minister Ben Gvir claimed that the head of the Shin Bet, who believes in the concept of acceptance, implemented the move on his own initiative, but adds that Israel must remember that he is no more than an official, even if an important official. The Prime Minister is the one responsible for the entire system. "I have demanded that Prime Minister Netanyahu stop this and not allow more releases. We must remember that we are after October 7th. We have experienced a series of attacks. What are these gestures all about?" Ben Gvir asked.

Ben Gvir claimed that no one has explained to him what and why this gesture was made. He has personally asked the Prime Minister clarify this matter.

Minister Ben Gvir incorporated this incident with what appears to be a more mellow policy in Judea and Samaria, where checkpoints have been removed: "We are only several days before Ramadan and someone wants to convey to the general public that we are doing things to calm you down and everything is fine. But this is exactly the same mistake in the 'misconception' that I warned about so many times and that did not serve us well on October 7th. We saw how it failed."

Minister Ben Gvir also commented on reports that senior Shin Bet officials are forbidden from attending hearings with him due to his disregard for them: "I don't disrespect anyone in the Shin Bet. I'll just say one thing, that in the end the Israel Security Agency is a professional agency, whose recommendations I highly regard, but the politicians make the decisions. I'm the National Security Minister, and I am the one who is supposed to be making the decisions, not the Shin Bet, or anyone else in the police or elsewhere."

"I respect everyone and give them full empathy and appreciation, but there were years when those who ran the Ministry were vital officials. Now I am in charge of matters and I certainly want to set a policy and I am not ashamed of it."

Regarding the ongoing attacks during his term, as well as his own calls for his predecessors to resign when attacks occurred on their term, Minister Ben Gvir said that things have happened on his watch, but Israel is dealing with a war, and "on my watch things are majorly different. I distributed 90,000 guns. There are people who are trying to alarm me and say it's terrifying, but I think it's one of the most important things that we have done. On my watch, we opened 900 first response teams. Gantz closed first response teams and I'm opening another team and another team."

"On my watch, the policy of the Israel Police Force changed. In the past, if someone incited against the State, someone spoke to him maybe the next year or later. If this happens now, the police come to him on the same day or the latest two or three days later. He is handcuffed and taken into custody. On my watch, the Prison Service changed its policy. On my watch the police were there on October 7th, they were there fighting and they were functioning."

Minister Ben Gvir rejected the accusations against him as if he set the entire region on fire and led to a multi-front confrontation. Such claims, he said, have long been made against him, both when he demanded targeted killings and when he insisted on fighting Hamas or preventing Palestinian Authority workers from entering Gaza. "I’ve had enough of this misconception that has not proven itself. Before October 7th, I didn't go up to the Temple Mount because it was important to a very important security official. I respected him and didn't go to the Temple Mount. Before October 7th we brought in workers and we didn't carry out targeted killings, so as not to upset them, and in the end they murdered us, slaughtered us, raped us, mutilated us. It means that the whole misconception of quiet has not proven itself.”

"I don't look for wars all day. I believe that we have to be strong and determined. We are fighting a war and we must win it. Thanks to our determination and consistency, as well as the unequivocal statement that we are the landlords - these are what will lead us to victory," said Ben Gvir.

Perhaps it is possible to calm certain sectors so that the military campaign can be focused on the south or the north? Ben Gvir does not reject the desire for quiet, but noted that to calm the situation down, the solution is not to give up and go home. "If when they say ‘quiet’ they mean to give in to Hamas, to wave pictures of Sinwar on the Temple Mount, to give them visions of victory, to allow Arabs from Judea and Samaria to go wherever they want, to allow Arab administrative prisoners to be released, that's not calming the region, but doing exactly the opposite."

Minister Ben Gvir was asked about Minister Benny Gantz's independent trip to hold policy meetings in the US, without coordinating this with the government, as well as his claim that he wanted to use his good ties in the US administration for Israel's benefit. According to Ben Gvir, the question is not the trip itself, but what Gantz is doing there in the US and what and with whom he is talking there: "The Prime Minister should call Benny Gantz and tell him enough is enough. We cannot have a government within a government; a small cabinet within the government that is doing what it wants, managing its own misconception and other things that are not acceptable to most government ministers. Now they also want to set policies and determine that they are the real prime ministers. Prime Minister Netanyahu should put a stop to this. He must call in Benny Gantz and say 'stop.'”

Regarding what is happening behind closed doors in the US, the National Security Minister said that he does not know what is happening there, but that it is clear to him that Gantz does not represent government policy, but is bringing his own agenda, which contradicts the position of the right wing government.

According to Ben Gvir, this means that "the Prime Minister is nearing the moment when he will have to make a decision, whether he is following Gantz's path or the path of Otzma Yehudit; the path of the old misconception that led us where it led us, or a completely different approach."

Another issue that Minister Ben Gvir addressed is the call for the shared burden and the recruitment of haredim to the IDF.

Ben Gvir talks about his own son, who is currently debating which elite unit to enlist in. This, he says, is what the youth in the sector from which he comes is debating; how and how best to contribute and help the entire nation: "I am extremely proud of our public, and I think it is true that the time has come for everyone to understand that serving in the IDF is the holiest thing. It is the most important mission that can be, it is a war commanded by the Torah [a mitzvah]. After that statement, let's not be populists. I heard Gantz offer Deri an under-the-table deal that would result in early elections. This shows that they don't really care about recruitment, but about elections."

"Recruitment should not be coerced. The police have offered a solution to the problem. Haredim can be recruited to the National Guard. They can be recruited for significant service in the Border Police. From conversations with the haredi public, I think they are open to hearing about these options. If we do things with understanding and not coercion, it will work," said Ben Gvir, who also believes that the time has come for action and not just for talk. Those young haredim who are not studying must find a source of meaningful service. But not in a populist manner or in a discourse of threats of forced conscription, because that will not yield any results.

Ben Gvir also commented on the response of the Attorney General, who believes that he, the Minister of National Security, will not be the one to appoint the head of the Investigations Division: "I really sincerely hope that this report is not true, but if it is, then it's delusional. The Attorney General is an important official with a lot of power, but she cannot dictate to politicians. The person who appoints officers in the Israel Police is the Minister of National Security, on the recommendation of the Police Commissioner. If this is true, it is the end of democracy, it is to turn Israel into a banana republic, and I expect the Prime Minister to call the Attorney General and demand clarifications. We are not a state run by public officials."