Israeli President Isaac Herzog has been caught saying that “the whole world is worried” about newly elected lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir’s far-right positions.
Herzog was holding a consultation with the ultra-Orthodox Shas party about last week’s election when his comment about Ben-Gvir, an ultranationalist set to become a minister in Benjamin Netanyahu’s new cabinet, was caught by a microphone he apparently thought was off.
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“You have a partner who the entire world around us is worried about. I have also said this to him,” Herzog was heard saying at the end of the meeting on Wednesday.
“You are going to have a problem with the Temple Mount. That is a critical issue,” Herzog said, referring to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which far-right Israelis have repeatedly entered over the last few years in violation of long-agreed norms over access.
Herzog’s office later reiterated that the president had discussed these concerns with Ben-Gvir directly.
Ben-Gvir, who leads the far-right Jewish Power party, is expected to be in former PM Netanyahu’s new government following the victory in last week’s election.
He is best known as a Palestinian-hating, far-right provocateur.
In 2007, he was convicted of incitement to racism, destroying property, possessing a “terror” organisation’s propaganda material and supporting a “terror” organisation – Meir Kahane’s outlawed Kach group, which he joined when he was 16.
He has recently expressed interest in becoming police minister, raising alarm among Palestinians about possible increased violence.
Netanyahu’s new government is likely to be one of the most right-wing in Israel’s history.
Local media has quoted Ben-Gvir as saying he has had “many fruitful conversations” with the president and that he intends to explain his Jewish Power party’s positions.
The president’s consultations with political parties will continue over the coming days. He will tap a candidate to assemble a government on Sunday, his office said.
Last week’s election was the fifth in less than four years. Along with smaller far-right and religious parties, his Likud party took 64 seats in the 120-seat parliament, giving Netanyahu a solid majority and easing the process of forming a government.