Ben Gvir to tap as chief of staff top aide with long history of extremism — report

Extremist leader Itamar Ben Gvir, set to be appointed the newly created role of national security minister in the upcoming government, is reportedly expected to tap as his chief of staff an aide with a history of far-right settler activism that saw him the subject of restraining orders and led the Shin Bet security service to describe him in the past as a danger to Israeli society.

Chanamel Dorfman, who has been referred to by Ben Gvir as his “right-hand man,” has also in past said the Israel Police — over which Ben Gvir will preside in his new role — is “antisemitic,” “rotten”  and “a mafia.”

Ben Gvir, who leads the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, inked a deal Friday to join a government under prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party, becoming head of the brand new National Security Ministry, a planned portfolio that will include overseeing the police and Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

Dorfman is the most likely candidate to become Ben Gvir’s chief of staff at the new ministry, the Haaretz daily reported Sunday.

A former Shin Bet official told the outlet that Dorfman had been a subject of the service’s investigations due to his involvement with the extreme-right hilltop youth — ultra-nationalist Jewish settlers who build illegal outposts in the West Bank and often clash with Palestinians and Israeli security forces — despite not being considered among the leaders of the movement.

Dorfman, 27, has been active in the hilltop youth movement since he was a teenager.

As a minor, he was the subject of administrative restraining orders from the Israel Defense Forces Central Command, keeping him out of the West Bank due to allegations he was involved in rioting to protest the removal of illegal outposts.

He was reportedly arrested in 2012 on suspicion of directing activists at the Ramat Migron illegal outpost and using violence against security forces. However, with Ben Gvir as his legal representative, he successfully sued the state for damages over a strip search he underwent and was awarded NIS 28,000 ($8,182) in a preliminary hearing.

Settler activists rebuild one of the structures at the settlement outpost of Ramat Migron on August 16, 2022. (Jeremy Sharon/Times of Israel)

Dorfman was later arrested again and in 2013 sued the Shin Bet and police for damages over the conditions he was kept in. He also won that case, with the court awarding him NIS 10,000 ($2,922).

Also in 2013, he told a Channel 2 investigative program — exploring the Jewish Department of the Shin Bet — that he was willing to pay a “personal price” for his cause, including giving up his life.

Otzma Yehudit adviser Chanamel Dorfman (right) and Likud MK Yariv Levin sign a coalition agreement, November 25, 2022. (Courtesy)

In 2018, Shin Bet intelligence determined that Dorfman was planning to disturb the peace during a visit by then-US president Barack Obama. He was brought in for questioning and was released on the condition that he stay in the Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood on the outskirts of Jerusalem, where he lived at the time, for the duration of Obama’s visit. Ben Gvir petitioned the court to cancel the order as infringing on Dorfman’s freedom of expression. A confidential Shin Bet report submitted to the court at the time stated that “the police believe that this is not an innocent citizen who wants to express his opinion, but an instigator who can harm society as a whole.”

Dorfman was eventually ordered to stay at least 300 meters away from Obama’s route.

More recently, Dorfman has made inflammatory remarks about the Israel Police, the same organization Ben Gvir will now be in charge of, including tweeting in 2021 that the force was “the most antisemitic in the world” after clashes between settlers and police at the hardline Yitzhar outpost.

Later the same year, he wrote that the police had “a culture of lies.”

In 2020, remarking on violent clashes between police and ultra-Orthodox Jews in the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem, Dorfman called the force “despicable” and “racist.”

In 2019, when the media reported on the police raiding a wedding held by so-called hilltop youth, he tweeted that police were “a mafia.”

Dorfman is married to the daughter of Bentzi Gopstein, head of the radical right-wing, anti-LGBT and anti-miscegenation Lehava organization. At his 2013 wedding, he danced with knives, Channel 12 has reported.

Otzma Yehudit adviser Chanamel Dorfman dances at his own wedding in 2013 with knives. (Screenshot: Channel 12 news; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

In 2012, aged 17, he attended a rally against the location of African and illegal migrants in south Tel Aviv and was quoted by Haaretz as saying: “The only problem with the Nazis is that I was on the losing side.”

Otzma Yehudit responded Sunday in a statement, saying remarks attributed to Dorfman from his youth were “false” and that he was in the process of suing Channel 13 news and its reporter Yossi Eli for making similar claims.

The statement referred to the Haaretz report on Dorfman as “recycled and false materials from the time when Otzma Yehudit members were minors.”

Dorfman did not issue a separate response.

The Haaretz report came after earlier this month, Channel 13 revealed that Dorfman had helped establish an organization that donates money to incarcerated Jewish terrorists and extremists, including former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin Yigal Amir.

Dorfman filed the application for Shlom Asiraich to be recognized as a non-governmental organization in Israel two years ago and is listed on the form as the group’s legal adviser, the network revealed in an exposé.

Netanyahu and his Likud party led a bloc of right-wing and religious parties to victory in the November 1 elections. In addition to reaching an agreement with Otzma Yehudit, Likud has also made a deal with the extreme-right, anti-LGBT Noam party, whose sole MK Avi Maoz will head a new department responsible for the Jewish identity of the country.

Likud has faced criticism over its willingness to work with the far-right, which also includes Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism party, which is also aiming to take over senior ministries but which hasn’t yet clinched a deal with Netanyahu.

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