Date first published: 04/04/2023

Key sectors: all

Key risks: political violence; internal conflict 


Risk development

On 27 March after 12 consecutive weeks of protests, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a pause in the legislative process of the judicial reforms launched by his government. At the same time, to prevent the government’s immediate collapse, the Prime Minister was compelled to reassure his coalition partners – major sponsors of the reform – that the reform bill will be reintroduced in the next Knesset session in May, only delaying another confrontation with the opposition. In addition, specific concessions were made to controversial National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir – who threatened to otherwise resign – resulting in the authorisation of plans for the creation of a national guard under Ben-Gvir’s authority, capitalising on Netanyahu’s precarious political standing.

Why it matters

Although little is known as to the specifics of the proposed national guard, it is expected to take the form of a paramilitary force – separate and independent from the police and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Considering Ben-Gvir’s open hostility towards Palestinians and overwhelming support among Israeli settlers, it is likely that the proposed national guard will be deployed to provide additional security in mixed Arab-Israeli towns inside Israel initially and possibly around settlements in the West Bank in the medium term, with a mandate to enforce law and order on the Arab population. The force will likely be composed of Israeli reservists and civilian volunteers.

The creation of an irregular force under the authority of a controversial figure such as Ben-Gvir risks legitimising and emboldening the use of force from non-military or law enforcement personnel. As such, it is likely to be met with legal challenges and condemnation from human rights organisations while being acclaimed by the settler community and further entrenching the growing divisions in Israeli society.


On 29 December 2022 the new Netanyahu government was inaugurated with right-wing religious nationalists gaining key cabinet positions for the first time, including former Kahanist Itamar Ben-Gvir, who openly advocates for the annexation of the West Bank and for cracking down on Palestinian militancy. However, to his regret, his position as National Security Minister did not provide for a security force under his purview in and around Israeli settlements. Instead, Ben-Gvir turned to repressing Palestinian prisoners – under the authority of his ministry – with aggravating measures such as banning prisoner-run bakeries, shortening the time allowed for showers or ceasing funding for non-essential medical treatment.

Plans for the national guard come amid a stark deterioration of security conditions in the West Bank over recent months, with near-daily IDF raids and a surge of settler violence, culminating on 26 February when hundreds of settlers attacked the Palestinian towns of Huwarah, Burin and Asira al-Qabaliyya, south of Nablus in the northern West Bank, killing a Palestinian civilian, injuring more than 100 others and causing significant material damage. Retaliatory attacks from Palestinian militant groups have also increased in response, leading to calls for even harsher responses from Israeli authorities.

Risk outlook

The creation of what many human rights organisations call a ‘private militia’ will likely exacerbate existing tensions between Arab citizens of Israel and Palestinians in the West bank on the one hand and Jewish Israelis and settlers on the other. In addition, with a paramilitary force under his ministry’s umbrella, Ben-Gvir will be in a privileged position to advance a professed anti-Palestinian agenda under the guise of a law and order mandate – consolidating the power of the Israel settler movement in Israeli politics and his own in the process.