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Israel: Ex-police chiefs call for the removal of Ben Gvir as minister

Letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu says the national security minister poses an 'immediate danger to the security' of Israel
Far right Israeli lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir near Damascus Gate in occupied East Jerusalem, 10 June 2021 (Reuters)

Six former Israeli police chiefs and 42 deputy police commissioners have called on Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fire his far-right coalition ally Itamar Ben Gvir from his post as national security minister.

In a letter published on Friday, the former police chiefs warned that Ben Gvir poses "a tangible and immediate danger to the security of the State of Israel".

The letter to Netanyahu, who heads one of Israel's most right-wing governments in history, accuses Ben Gvir of playing a "central part" to the problems facing the police force, and says his tenure as minister could lead to the "collapse of the Israeli police".

The police chiefs also asked Netanyahu for a meeting without Ben-Gvir's presence to "present proposals that would strengthen the police force" and "expand on the factors that led to this situation".

Since taking office six months ago, Ben Gvir has repeatedly attempted to exert political influence on the police force and clashed publicly with Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai.

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Earlier this week, ​​Palestinian citizens of Israel announced general strikes and protests against the Israeli police's "inaction" after a mass shooting left five people dead on Thursday.

The attack, which came amid a record-high murder rate in Palestinian towns and villages inside Israel, is one of the deadliest crime-related shootings in the country in recent years. 

More than 90 people have been killed in such shootings this year, compared to around 30 killed in the same period in 2022.

Palestinians say police have failed to ensure their safety against organised crime gangs that have plagued their community for years.

Some accuse Israeli authorities of complicity with criminals in a bid to weaken the social fabric of their community and make them feel unsafe.

Israel: Palestinians protest police 'inaction' after mass shooting kills five
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Earlier this year, Ben Gvir launched a series of punitive measures against Palestinians living in occupied East Jerusalem, which some Israeli officials said could result in increased tensions.

Israeli prison authorities, which are part of Ben Gvir's remit as national security minister, have also begun imposing harsher conditions against Palestinian prisoners, such as closing the canteen, cutting hot water and removing kettles and single gas hobs used to heat food.

Shin Bet director Ronen Bar, who normally reports to the prime minister, earlier this year warned Ben Gvir that he was "creating a feeling of collective harassment", in East Jerusalem.

"This is agitating [East] Jerusalem and may cause a broad flare-up at this sensitive time," Bar told Ben Gvir, who reportedly dismissed the warning.

Under pressure from the minister, Israeli police have also increasingly used violence on thousands of Israeli protesters who have marched in recent months against a controversial government plan to overhaul the judicial system.

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