UPDATE - 'Whole world worried about' Ben-Gvir: Israeli president

UPDATE - 'Whole world worried about' Ben-Gvir: Israeli president

Leaked audio attributed to Israeli president manifests his concern over extremist Knesset member expected to join upcoming government


By Zain Khalil

JERUSALEM (AA) – Israeli President Isaac Herzog said Thursday "the whole world is worried" about the far-right views of Knesset member Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is expected to become a minister in the upcoming government.

Herzog held talks on Wednesday with leaders of the Shas Party as part of three-day consultations with representatives of the political parties voted into the Knesset (Israel's parliament), before tasking an individual with forming a government based on their recommendations.

"You will have a problem with the Temple Mount (Al-Aqsa Mosque), which is a critical issue," Herzog told the party leaders. "The whole world is afraid of your partner Ben-Gvir," he added in a leaked audio cited by Walla news portal.

A statement by Herzog's office said the Israeli president "presented to members of the Shas Party the inquiries he received, including concerns about MK Itamar Ben-Gvir's positions on certain issues."

Ben-Gvir, for his part, stated, "We had fruitful talks with President Herzog in recent weeks."

Ben-Gvir holds far-right views on the Palestinians. He had previously called for the displacement of Palestinians. He also caused a wave of escalation in occupied East Jerusalem after setting up an office in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

Ben-Gvir has repeatedly joined Israeli settlers in storming the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque complex in East Jerusalem.

Al-Aqsa Mosque is the world's third-holiest site for Muslims. Jews call the area the "Temple Mount," claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem, where Al-Aqsa is located, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. It annexed the entire city in 1980 in a move never recognized by the international community.

* Ikram Imane Kouachi contributed to this report

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