Israeli Public Security Minister Amir Ohana called on Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit over the weekend to take seriously what Ohana described as a growing threat to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family.
In a letter to Mandelblit, Ohana said that the attorney general was not taking the threats seriously, and accused Mandelblit of acting as if he had a personal vendetta against Netanyahu.
“Your smug letter indicates that you are not taking my request about the growing threats to the lives of the prime minister and his family seriously,” wrote Ohana.
“Recently, it seems as if you have been acting like someone with a personal vendetta against the prime minister, in the sense of ‘it’s him or me,’ as seen in a series of decisions, such as your intervention in preventing the prime minister from receiving [public] funding for the costs of the trial you forced upon him, despite you having an inherent conflict of interest as the accuser and prosecutor who is seeking to convict him,” wrote Ohana.
Ohana’s harshly-worded missive came in response to Mandelblit’s refusal of his request to cancel a regulation stipulating that a senior member of the State Attorney’s Office must sign off on a criminal investigation into suspected abuse of the freedom of expression to incite to violence. Ohana had asked that the regulation be canceled in light of the growing incitement against Netanyahu and his family that has been appearing on social media.
Ohana’s letter went on to say that “we are talking about life and death … in a public arena that is already restive, we are now hearing explicit calls to kill the prime minister and his family. These are blatant, explicit calls, unlike what is known as ‘the incitement that led up to the murder of Yitzhak Rabin.’ We are not talking about hints, but explicit, sometimes graphic, threats against his life.”
Ohana also noted a few specific cases of incitement, including a post on social media by a man who wrote that “any one of the demonstrators [against the government’s policies] is willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of the country and be the Yigal Amir [the man shot Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin] who carries out an assassination of Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu].” To which another individual wrote, “Whoa, you’re right. We need to take out Bibi like they took out Rabin.”
The Interior Minister agrees
Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri on Sunday called on Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) Director Nadav Argaman to increase the protection afforded to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family, saying that the growing incitement and threats against Netanyahu personally “could herald a catastrophe.”
“In recent weeks we have seen growing incitement against the prime minister, including calls for harming his family and his assassination,” wrote Deri in a letter. “As a former member of late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s government, I cannot sit idly by vis-à-vis these alarming incidents of incitement and the calls to physically harm Netanyahu and his family,” he added.
Prime Minister Rabin was gunned down by radical right-wing activist Yigal Amir on Nov. 4, 1995, in Tel Aviv. Amir later cited his objection to Rabin’s policies, particularly the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords, as the reason for the murder.
The weeks leading to Rabin’s assassination were rife with protests against the Oslo Accords, with many far-right activists saying the prime minister had to be stopped “by any means necessary.” He was infamously portrayed in Nazi uniforms, labeled a “traitor,” and several extreme rabbis even went as far as to issue a Pulsa deNura, or Kabbalistic “death curse,” against him.
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The current public atmosphere is very troubling, Deri wrote, stressing, “We can never again say we didn’t know; that our hands are not stained with blood. … I’m aware of the fact you [Argaman] and the Shin Bet are making great efforts to protect the prime minister and his family, but I will be remiss in my public duty if I do not warn of what may come and do everything to ensure we spare no effort to prevent such a catastrophe.”
Israeli society, he warned, “will find it difficult to weather another such incident.”
Freedom of protest and expression “are fundamental principles of democracy and we must preserve them,” the interior minister continued. “Leveling scathing criticism [at elected officials] is legitimate, but incitement to violence against the prime minister and his family cross a red line.”
Netanyahu has filed several police complaints over the past few weeks over threats made against him.
Last week, Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son, asked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to order the police to investigate threats made against him, as well.
Public Security Minister Amir Ohana warned last week that the level of incitement currently being directed at Netanyahu “dwarfs what was seen in the lead-up to Rabin’s assassination.
“What we saw [in the protests in Jerusalem] was anarchy [led by] agents of chaos seeking to sow panic and despair in the public,” Ohana said.
These article first appeared in Israel Hayom.