Far-right jeers, U.S. censure for Ben-Gvir attendance at Kahane event

JERUSALEM, Nov 10 (Reuters) – Far-right Itamar Ben-Gvir, a likely key partner in Israel’s next government, was convicted by the United States on Thursday for attending a memorial service for Meir Kahane, despite being booed at the event to dismiss the late militant leader’s call for the mass expulsion of Arabs.

A former member of Kahane’s illegal Kach movement, Ben-Gvir tweeted before the Jerusalem event that his participation was in recognition of the slain US-born Israeli rabbi’s “love for Israel” and “the fight for Soviet Jews and against anti-Semitism.”

Israeli television aired its eulogy for Kahane, who was shot dead by an Egyptian-American gunman in Manhattan 32 years ago this week.

“It’s no secret that today I am not Rabbi Kahane, that I do not support the expulsion of all Arabs and that I will not pass laws for separate beaches for Arabs and Jews,” he said, drawing boos from members of the ‘audience, several of which. wore Kach shirts.

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But there were cheers as he repeated his campaign promise to deport “terrorists,” a term he has applied to Palestinian stone-throwers as well as some representatives of Israel’s 21 percent Arab minority.

Ben-Gvir, 46 and a practicing lawyer, says he has moderated.

Asked about Ben-Gvir’s presence at the memorial, US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington that “celebrating the legacy of a terrorist organization is abhorrent.

“There’s no other word for it, it’s abhorrent. And we remain concerned, as we’ve said before, about the legacy of Kahane Chai and the continued use of the rhetoric among violent right-wing extremists,” Price said, and he added that Washington has listed the group as a specially designated global terrorist organization.

The United States has “condemned incitement … violence and racism in all its forms,” ​​Price said, repeating a call for calm and restraint in Israel.

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After coming out on top in last week’s election, former conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will almost certainly have to ally with Ben-Gvir’s Religious Zionism and other nationalist parties to secure a stable parliamentary majority .

This has raised alarm in Israel and abroad, given Ben-Gvir’s record that includes a 2007 conviction for racist incitement and support for terrorism and anti-LGBT activism.

A settler living in the West Bank, which Israel seized in a 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Ben-Gvir wants the Palestinian Authority, which has limited rule over parts of the territory under US-sponsored interim peace agreements, to dismantle

Ben-Gvir also supports Jewish prayer at a holy site in Jerusalem that houses the al-Aqsa Mosque and is a vestige of ancient Jewish temples.

Washington has publicly stopped comment on the possibility of Ben-Gvir’s involvement in a ruling coalition, saying it respects Israeli democracy and awaits confirmation of the new government and word on its policies, including talks on Palestinian statehood. which are stalled for a long time and Iran’s nuclear projects.

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“We’ll see who takes those positions and what positions they take on their positions,” US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides told Israel’s Kan Radio when asked about Ben-Gvir during an interview of Wednesday issued on Thursday.

“My job, as the American ambassador, is to keep the dialogue going … but to push back on the things we don’t agree with. And I’m going to push back aggressively on the things we don’t agree with.”

Reporting by Dan Williams; Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Simon Lewis and Henriette Chacar; Editing by Howard Goller

Our standards: the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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