Jerusalem24 – In a joint speech last night by the Israeli Ministry of Internal Security and the Prime Minister’s office, Naftali Bennett and Omar Bar-Lev announced the launch of a new “Israeli National Guard” unit which will work under the auspices of the Border Police.
“This is my concluding move as Prime Minister,” said Bennett, who is due to cede his place to Yair Lapid after the collapse of his governing coalition. A vote to dissolve the Knesset will take place later today.
Bennett said he expected “tens of thousands of Israelis” to join the security forces in the wake of the new unit’s creation. NIS 40 million has been earmarked for the program.
“The Border Police is the first, immediate, and best answer to the issue of internal security,” said Bar-Lev.
The new unit’s creation as well as the reinforcement of existing units was in response, he said, to the events of May 2021 which saw Palestinian citizens of Israel rise up and protest alongside Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem during Israel’s attack on Gaza, and as the looming eviction of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah made international headlines.
This was dubbed the Unity Intifada by Palestinians, as it marked the first time Palestinians with Israeli citizenship had risen to protest their own conditions within Israel alongside Palestinians under occupation.
“About a year ago, we experienced an unprecedented event in Israel,” said Police Commissioner Superintendent Kobi Shabtai. “An attempted uprising of thousands of Arab citizens, a dangerous combination of criminal elements and extremist terrorist elements banding together to harm civilians and undermine the foundations of the state.”
Shabtai said the new unit would “train more people to fight terrorism and deal with disturbances.”
In addition to the new “Israeli Guard” unit – which will consist of existing police officers, reserve troops, and volunteers – the Border Police will expand its existing 20 reserve companies by another 26 over the next few years, while the volunteer force will increase its ranks from a current 8,000 to 9,500 by 2023.
The Civil Guard police unit will also increase its numbers by around 3,500.
A new volunteer special forces unit, the “Forward Companies”, will count 1,000 reserve fighters by the end of 2022 with another 1,000 joining in 2023. The Forward Companies will be trained in riot control, and will keep their weapons and equipment at home in order to “deploy at a moment’s notice”.
Bar-Lev said the Border Police overhaul was “a revolution” for the force.