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Israel: Senior arms licensing official resigns over Ben-Gvir’s 'reckless' policies

December 5, 2023 at 10:31 am

Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir (C) shakes hands with a volunteer of the new civilian guard unit while handing out M5 automatic assault rifles, during the unit’s inauguration ceremony in the southern city of Ashkelon on October 27, 2023 [MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images)

Firearm Licensing Department Director at the Israeli Ministry of National Security, Yisrael Avisar, resigned on Sunday in protest of the reckless licensing regulations applied under extremist Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has fast-tracked thousands of civilian gun permits, claiming it boosts public security.

Avisar, who served in the post for six years, said Ben-Gvir has granted 82 of his close associates “temporary authority” to approve gun licence applications, including his own personal staff, Knesset employees and young women performing civilian national service volunteer duty. He explained that under normal conditions an employee must undergo a month-long training before obtaining a permit to grant arms licence, but under Ben-Gvir’s policy, the training period is only one day.

Last week, Avisar blasted Ben-Gvir’s “reckless” policy in issuing licences during two sessions held at the Knesset.

He explained that the far-right minister’s associates had set up an “operations room” in the minister’s office, and warned that licences were being given to applicants who did not meet the ministry’s criteria. “Licensing officers must examine the candidates’ mental and health capacity to carry a weapon, in addition to other qualifications,” he said.

Avisar also expressed fear that preferential treatment was being given to some applicants.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper quoted a security official as saying that this is “a recipe for disaster.”

“They are distributing weapons as if they were distributing candy, but a licence to carry a weapon is not a children’s toy. There is almost no oversight in the ministry,” the source said.

Since taking office, Ben-Gvir has relentlessly worked to facilitate the conditions for issuing licences to carry weapons, which drastically escalated since 7 October.

Since then, the number of applications to obtain a weapon has reached 255,000, and about 20,000 of them were approved.

Responding to Avisar’s resignation, the Ministry of National Security said yesterday: “A weapon saves lives, and the minister’s policy is being expanded and not reduced.”

READ: Israel’s Ben-Gvir calls for ‘immediate return with massive force’ to bombing of Gaza