JERUSALEM—“When a terrorist supporter is brought into the Knesset, don’t act surprised when he pulls out a gun,” said the left-wing Israeli parliamentarian Michal Rozin on Twitter, following an early morning incident on Wednesday in which one of her fellow legislators leveled a weapon at two unarmed garage attendants.
The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, erupted after videos emerged showing Itamar Ben-Gvir—a follower of the notorious radical rabbi Meir Kahane, whose political party was declared a terror organization by Israel and by the United States, and the only Israeli legislator convicted of supporting a terror organization—pulling a handgun out of his holster and waving it in the direction of two young Arab garage attendants in a parking lot under Tel Aviv’s largest convention center.
“I’m gonna fuck you over!” the legislator is heard yelling, “I’ll take care of you!”
The two attendants, who turned over iPhone videos to the police, claim he then added “Arab dogs!”
A longtime extremist agitator, the 45-year-old was first elected to the parliament in March 2021, following an electoral deal brokered by then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who hoped the right-wing fanatic vote would help him hold onto power. Ben-Gvir hit Israeli airwaves for the first time as a 19-year-old, when he was interviewed holding the Cadillac emblem he’d torn off then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s car, boasting, “We got to his car. We’ll get to him, too”—a few weeks before Rabin, who’d led Israel to the Oslo Peace Accords with the Palestinians, was assassinated by another right-wing extremist.
On Wednesday, Ben-Gvir said that he feared his life was threatened by the two guards, who were unarmed, equipped only with phones and walkie-talkies, and physically substantially smaller than the legislator.
“It could have ended in murder,” he said in a statement, in which he falsely asserted that the two parking attendants had been detained by police.
The parliamentary immunity he enjoys as a legislator does not protect him from charges of “brandishing a weapon during an argument over a parking place,” explained attorney Gonen Ben Yitzhak.
Ben-Gvir was convicted of incitement to racism and support for a terrorist organization in 2007, when he was found guilty of carrying signs that read, “Expel the Arab Enemy” and “Rabbi Kahane was right: The Arab MKs are a fifth column” in Jerusalem protests.
The Brooklyn-born Kahane, a founder of the Jewish Defense League who immigrated to Israel in 1971, served a single term in the Knesset before being banned by a law prohibiting “undemocratic” parties from participation in parliamentary elections. He was shot and killed by an Egyptian American assailant in November, 1990.
The videos of what appeared to be an unhinged, dangerous Ben-Gvir raised numerous questions in Israel, where strict gun control laws prevent most civilians, less so any citizen convicted of terrorist sympathies, from carrying or possessing firearms.
In a formal query, left-wing Knesset Member Mossi Raz asked the police minister, Omer Bar-Lev, to explain under which circumstances “an individual with a criminal record is allowed to carry a firearm and if so, why?”
But Bar-Lev is not the one who authorized Ben-Gvir to carry a weapon. Over the course of the afternoon, it emerged that Ben-Gvir was granted an exceptional permit to carry a weapon by Knesset Sergeant-at-Arms Yuval Chen as a concession, after he turned down Ben-Gvir’s request for secret service protection.
The two security guards, who have not been named, are backed by their employer, who issued a statement stating that they “did their jobs as required and behaved in accordance with expectations."
According to attendants, they approached Ben-Gvir after he illegally parked his vehicle, and asked him to move it to a marked spot. In response, he drew his gun and shouted “Don’t threaten me! I will fuck you over, Arab dogs!”
Since being elected, he’s been embroiled in numerous public conflagrations.
In June, police banned Ben-Gvir from marching through the Muslim Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City, only a month after Jewish-Arab clashes tore through the city during the war that erupted between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist militia that rules the Gaza Strip.
In defiance of law enforcement authorities, Ben-Gvir nonetheless marched to a flashpoint at Damascus Gate, where he claimed that parliamentary immunity superseded police orders.
In July, he was dragged off the Knesset podium after hurling the word “terrorist” at Ahmad Tibi, a veteran legislator and representative of the majority Arab Joint List, who was acting as Knesset Speaker.