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Israeli-born far-right Dutch politician rejected from ministerial role after security check

“The content of the report about Gidi Markuszower was reason for me to withdraw his candidacy,” Prime Minister Geert Wilders tweeted.

An Israeli-born Dutch politician who has long attracted criticism in the Netherlands will not serve as immigration minister in the new far-right government following a security check.

Gidi Markuszower is a longtime top official in the Party for Freedom led by Geert Wilders, which swept to a top finish in the Netherlands’ national election in December. Wilders announced earlier this week that Markuszower, who espouses a hardline anti-immigration outlook, was his pick for as minister for asylum and migration.

But after a background check conducted by the Dutch national security agency, Wilders reversed course. “The content of the report about Gidi Markuszower was reason for me to withdraw his candidacy,” the prime minister tweeted on Thursday.

The reversal was not the first political setback for Markuszower, who was raised in the Netherlands and became a senator in the Dutch parliament in 2017. In 2010, he was forced to withdraw his candidacy in that year’s parliamentary election after being flagged by the Dutch security agency AIVD as a possible security threat. (He had also been arrested in 2008 for carrying an unlicensed firearm while working as a volunteer guard for the Jewish community.)

Then-Interior Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin, whose father was a Jewish Holocaust survivor, threatened to take action against Wilders’ party if it presented the candidacy of Markuszower, whom Ballin flagged as a threat to national security, Dutch media reported. This week, according to Dutch media reports, Ballin, now retired, sent a letter to Wilders warned him that AIVD believed Markuszower was passing information to a “foreign power” — widely assumed to be Israel.

Markuszower — one of several Jewish politicians to gain prominence on the far right in Europe — was an outspoken supporter of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even as a teenager in the 1990s in Amsterdam, where his right-wing outlook was unusual at his Jewish school, and he began his career as a Dutch spokesperson for Netanyahu’s Likud Party. As a politician, he has made support for Israel and opposition to Muslim immigration to the Netherlands cornerstones of his platform.

Now, Wilders is under pressure to explain what AIVD’s background check revealed and why Markuszower should be permitted to remain in the senate, where he has access to national security information.

Wilders’ election in December came amid a Europe-wide surge of support for far-right, nationalist parties, many of whom posted better-than-expected results in last week’s European Union parliament elections. The results have brought added legitimacy to a French party founded by a convicted Holocaust denier and have ignited fears among many German Jews about resonance between the current political climate and the years leading up to the Holocaust.

This article originally appeared on JTA.org.

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