Defense Minister and Acting Justice Minister Benny Gantz accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “incitement,” comparing Netanyahu’s remarks to former U.S. President Donald Trump’s which allegedly contributed to the riot in January at the Capitol Building in Washington.
The accusation comes after Netanyahu told a group of small business owners earlier on Sunday that it was the Justice Ministry that was preventing them from being financially compensated for losses incurred during the three pandemic lockdowns.
While Netanyahu did not present any solid facts behind his claim, he urged the business owners to demonstrate outside the Justice Ministry in order to pressure officials to initiate the legal process needed to compensate small business owners.
Gantz was not amused. He accused Netanyahu of inciting the business owners to storm the Justice Ministry building – drawing a direct parallel to the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.
“If there are scenes like there were in the United States of protesters breaking into government offices, the blood will be on your hands,” said Gantz, who stressed that he would uphold and protect the integrity of the country’s justice system.
“I will stand in your way every time you try to harm the justice system,” he said.
Officials from Netanyahu’s Likud party rejected the accusation of incitement, emphasizing that the prime minister’s remarks did not encourage anyone to enter the Justice Ministry building.
While Trump’s controversial pre-Capitol riot remarks were directed at political opponents, Gantz and Netanyahu are formally still jointly heading a caretaker unity government. In the March 2020 election, Gantz’s Blue and White party explicitly ran on an anti-Netanyahu platform, vowing to their voters that the party would not sit in a Netanyahu-led government. Many in Israel and abroad were therefore greatly surprised when Gantz backtracked on his election pledge and signed a unity government agreement with Netanyahu in April 2020.
However, the strained relations between Gantz and Netanyahu deteriorated to the point where the unity government quickly collapsed, sending Israel to its fourth election in less than two years on March 23. Even more than the preceding last three elections, the upcoming election is less about specific policies and more a contest between diverse anti-Netanyahu and pro-Netanyahu political blocs.
While formally still sitting together in the current caretaker government until a new government has been formed, Netanyahu and Gantz are barely on speaking terms with each other. On Tuesday, Gantz claimed that Netanyahu’s “incitement” puts Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s life in danger. In January 2020, Mandelblit formally indicted Netanyahu for corruption in three separate cases. Netanyahu insists he is innocent but has frequently blasted Mandelblit and other justice officials, the media and law enforcement, accusing them of leading a politically motivated witch hunt against him.
“I think there is a threat to Mandelblit’s life. The prime minister is fueling [incitement] against the justice system,” Gantz said on Tuesday.
While not directly accusing Netanyahu of seeking to harm Mandelblit, Gantz claimed that the prime minister’s rhetoric could inspire some of his followers to resort to violence against the attorney general.
“I think the attorney general could be harmed. Even if the prime minister doesn’t want it to happen, he has no control over what will happen,” Gantz said.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.