The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad issued a rare public threat on Tuesday against an Israeli politician, overtly warning of his assassination amid escalating violence between Israel and Palestinians.
The threat comes as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assembles a coalition government in alliance with far-right politicians including Itamar Ben Gvir, long considered a fringe figure due to his extreme policy positions that include relaxing the rules of engagement for Israeli soldiers confronting “terrorists,” and dismantling the Palestinian Authority. Ben Gvir is widely expected to become Israel’s next security minister.
Tariq Ezz El-Din, a spokesman for the Islamic Jihad Movement for the West Bank, warned in a statement Tuesday that Ben Gvir would meet a similar fate to a far-right former tourism minister who was killed by Palestinian militants more than 20 years ago.
“The fate of Ben Gvir will become like that of the mortal Minister of Tourism of the occupation, Rehavam Ze’evi, who was the one who adopted the idea of transfer (the deportation of all Arabs from the land of Palestine), so his departure from life at the hands of Palestinians was the fastest,” El-Din said.
In response, Ben Gvir said he wouldn’t be deterred by the threats.
“We are determined to restore security to the residents of the State of Israel,” he said in a statement. “The time has come to establish a full-fledged right-wing government, so that we can crush the Islamic Jihad.”
A spokesperson for the outgoing prime minister, Yair Lapid, declined to comment on the threat.
Ben Gvir entered the mainstream of Israeli politics after the last election on Nov. 1, when his party’s support was crucial to Netanyahu’s victory. His hard-line message has resonated with many on the right in Israel amid a surge in violence this year -- mostly concentrated in Jerusalem and the West Bank -- that has led to the deaths of 31 Israelis and more than 130 Palestinians.
Two people were killed and more than a dozen were wounded in a twin explosion in Jerusalem last week, the first bomb attack against Israelis since 2016.
(Updates with comments from Ben Gvir starting in fifth paragraph.)
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