Police and the Knesset Guard have increased security for Yamina's No. 1 and 2 – Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked – after images of Bennett in an Arab headdress with the message “The liar” were shared on social media and hundreds of activists protested outside Shaked's home.
Prior to the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, Jewish right-wing extremists circulated similar images of Rabin as a “traitor,” opposing his Oslo peace agreement with the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat.
בוקס בבטן. זה מתחיל.. pic.twitter.com/jWHJNBuxGr— Shiran شيران 🕊🟣 (@shiranamedy) May 29, 2021
Police are investigating the threats against Bennett following his announcement on Sunday that he intends to form a unity government with centrist Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid’s “change bloc” that would replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been in power since 2009.
Right-wing activists have increasingly been pressuring Bennett and Shaked not to join a unity government with Lapid.
Following the threats against the Yamina party leadership, the Knesset Guard decided to boost security for Shaked. Last evening, some 300 right-wing activists gathered outside Shaked’s Tel Aviv home to protest against the decision to join forces with Yesh Atid. Some of the protestors were holding signs with messages such as “leftist traitors” and “Lapid’s collaborators.”
If the current negotiations lead to a unity government, Bennett and Lapid will rotate the premiership between them with Bennett going first as prime minister while Lapid would initially serve as alternate prime minister and foreign minister.
While a Bennett-Lapid coalition may not be a dream government for many Israelis, it is important to stress that many right-wing voters prefer such a coalition to a fifth election. In fact, an increasing number of right-wing voters are disappointed with Netanyahu and prefer a unity government to continued political turmoil.
Netanyahu’s failure to secure a parliamentary majority after four consecutive elections is a direct consequence of a deeply divided right-wing electorate. While right-wing parties control approximately two-thirds of all Knesset chairs, New Hope and Yisrael Beytenu, both right-wing parties openly oppose Netanyahu. In addition, Bennett’s right-wing Yamina has also concluded that a Netanyahu-led coalition is no longer politically feasible.
While Netanyahu may not intend to encourage politically motivated violence, he has repeatedly blasted Bennett and other right-wing critics for abandoning Israeli right-wing voters by joining a “left-wing” government with Lapid. Just today, Gideon Sa'ar called him an “incitement machine.”
Following Bennett’s televised announcement to join forces with Lapid on Sunday evening, Netanyahu attacked Bennett and accused him of committing “the deception of the century” and undermining Israel’s security by joining a “leftist” government with Lapid. Consequently, radical right-wingers have stepped up their attacks and threats against Bennett as a “traitor.”
However, in reality, a potential Bennett-Lapid unity government would consist of three right-wing parties, two centrist parties and two left-wing parties. In other words, the left-wing component would be a clear minority in such a government coalition. In addition, all the senior cabinet posts would be occupied by either right-wing or centrist politicians such as Bennett, Lapid, Gideon Sa’ar and Avigdor Liberman. In addition, Bennett and Sa’ar are politically further to the right than Netanyahu’s Likud party.
By failing to firmly condemn radical right-wing activists, Netanyahu is in practice fanning the flames with his increasingly aggressive rhetoric against Bennett and other right-wing politicians who believe that the time is ripe for a post-Netanyahu era.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.