Before boarding his plane back to Israel from Paris Saturday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned: “In recent weeks we have witnessed a growing wave of incitement, boundaries are crossed every day. It seemed that all boundaries had been crossed with threats against elected officials and myself, but it turns out there are more – because today we heard and saw the threat of murder. An explicit threat to assassinate a prime minister in Israel. I know there’s a debate about what endangers democracy, but it’s not debatable – this is a real danger to democracy.”
רה”מ נתניהו מגיב להסתה נגדו: “מצפה מגורמי אכיפת החוק לפעול באופן מיידי נגד מי שמסית ומאיים ברצח. מצפה גם מראשי האופוזיציה לדבר באותה תקיפות ועוצמה שאני דיברתי. אסור לשתוק סביב העניין הזה”@SuleimanMas1 pic.twitter.com/nrwDg3wC1l
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) February 4, 2023
It began last Wednesday, when, during a conference of the Israeli bar association, attorney David Hodak, a partner in one of Israel’s largest firms, Gross, Kleinhendler, Hodak, Halevy, Greenberg, Shenhav & Co., threatened onstage: “I decided that I will not live one day in a dictatorship and I will not leave the country, and if I have to fight for it – I will fight.”
Hodak added: “I talk to my friends from the military service, younger, and more mature, in the government they don’t understand the energy levels in the Israeli public and the level of opposition to this destructive legislative program. People are ready to fight with weapons…”
His threat was received with applause. And retired Supreme Court Judge Hanan Melcer, who has been lecturing the coalition parties against their plan to restore the balance among the three branches of government, sat in the audience and kept his mouth shut. The next day, when attorney Anat Kaufman, chair of the national insurance committee at the bar association, sharply attacked Hodak, saying, “This is what a violent thug looks like,” she was booed.
Later, retired Major General Zeev Raz, who, as a fighter pilot, participated in the bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981, posted on Facebook (where boomers go to make their deadly threats): “I am surprised by the moderation of Hodak’s wording (the lawyer who said he would use live fire – sic.). Only defending ourselves with weapons? Passivity? It’s cupping therapy for the dead. If a prime minister stands up and assumes dictatorial powers, that prime minister is dead, that simple, along with his ministers and his followers. We too should adopt the law of Rodef (in Jewish law, a pursuer, chasing his victim, can be killed to be stopped – DI). My pursuer law says: if my country is taken over by a person, foreign or Israeli, who leads it in an undemocratic manner, it is obligatory to kill him.”
And Saturday night, during a mass demonstration against the judicial reform, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai told the crowd: “I want to warn – the more extreme you’ll go, you may cause reactions against extremism, which endanger the unity we have all built with great effort. This is an opportunity to reach broad agreements, and if talking ends – actions will start. We will not stop in the public squares, we will not be indifferent, we will not react with resignation.”
Over the past month of deliberation of the proposed reform at the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice, left-wing politicians have done little more than try to interrupt the proceedings and boycott them. When asked on numerous occasions what they would fix in Israel’s judicial system, they usually offer one response: we must do something to reduce the waiting time for a court hearing by appointing hundreds of new judges. It’s true, but it also craftily ignores the issues at hand: a court that appoints itself, a court that regularly interferes with legislation, and the tyranny of ministerial legal counselors who impede legislation rather than help their ministers find legal ways to advance their policies. If the British civil servants in the famous sitcom say, “Yes, Minister,” and go about their routine, in Israel’s version it’s “No minister.”
The state prosecution on Saturday night issued a statement saying, “The State Attorney’s Office takes a serious view of the radicalization of public discourse, into which more and more extreme and blatant statements are penetrating that clearly go beyond legitimate and substantive criticism and the limits of freedom of expression.
“In recent days, the state attorney’s office has authorized Israel Police to open investigations in several cases of serious statements, which raised the suspicion of the crime of incitement to violence.
“The attorney’s office will not hesitate to authorize criminal investigations in cases of statements that exceed the boundaries of freedom of expression, whether heard from a person belonging to one camp or another and in the appropriate cases will even prosecute.”
Shin Bet Chief Ronen Bar on Saturday night met with Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai and noted that in recent days there had been an increase in the scope and severity of public statements, especially on social networks, which contain calls for physical harm and violent activity against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other elected officials.
The two agreed that the law enforcement system will adopt a policy of zero tolerance toward individuals who incite violence or call for harm to elected officials – as well as those who call for harm to protesters (balance!). Also, the police launched an investigation of retired Major General Zeev Raz on suspicion of incitement and threats.