Security chief warns of violence from Netanyahu supporters

Israeli security chief warns of violence as Netanyahu set to leave office
3 min read
06 June, 2021
The head of Israel's Shin Bet has urged politicians to avoid inflammatory rhetoric amid fears supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could engage in violence.
Authorities fear supporters of Netanyahu could oppose the government handover [Getty]

The head of Israel's internal security service has said the country could face violence similar to the January 6 attack on the US Capitol amid rising incitement on social media.

Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman called on politicians to denounce calls for violence and distance themselves from inflammatory rhetoric as Israel prepares for a new government headed by far-right leader Naftali Bennett, Axios reported.

The coalition agreement - which includes left-wing and Islamist members in addition to multiple right-wing factions - would put an end to 12 years of consecutive rule by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Observers fear incendiary language by Netanyahu and his supporters could produce a violent attack on Israeli government institutions or lawmakers, mirroring the January 6 attempt by followers of Donald Trump to stop the confirmation of the US election results.

The rare statement from Argaman came after the longtime Israeli prime minister shared a Facebook post comparing his political rivals to the Twelve Spies of the Bible.

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The spies were dispatched by Moses to assess the Land of Canaan as a future home for the Israelites. The Book of Numbers recalls the spies delivered false reports of an uninhabitable land, prompting God to decree the Israelites would wander for 40 years in the desert, where most of them would die.

Supporters of Netanyahu have posted themselves outside the homes of Bennett and his supporters. Some have issued death threats on social media.

Four lawmakers from Bennett's Yamina party have been assigned security protection this weekend.

Former security officials worry a right-wing nationalist rally set to occur later this week will be a flashpoint for violence.

The Flag March was originally planned to coincide with Jerusalem Day - which marks the day when Israel occupied east Jerusalem - last month but was canceled mid-event after Hamas fired rockets from the Gaza Strip in retaliation for attacks on worshippers by Israeli forces.

Eleven days of intense Israeli bombardment of the besieged Palestinian enclave followed. Nearly 250 Palestinians were killed, including 67 children.

"Especially with Jerusalem, any unusual incident can set alight the area and lead to an escalation in both [the West Bank] and the Strip," an unnamed security source told Israeli public broadcaster Kan.

Defence Minister Benny Gantz has called for the march to be rerouted to avoid tensions.

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On Sunday, Netanyahu condemned "all incitement and violence" but ramped up his rhetoric against the proposed coalition government in a speech to members of his Likud party.

The proposed "change government" is "the biggest election scam, maybe, in history", he claimed.

"If God forbid, it is formed, we will overthrow it very quickly," he told the Knesset. 

A day earlier, leading national religious rabbis called on supporters to "do everything" to prevent the formation of the coalition government, which has been dubbed the "change government".

"There is no doubt that this government will also harm matters of security, which relate to our very existence, as it relies on terror supporters and includes ministers who urge the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate IDF officers for war crimes," the rabbis' letter read according to The Times of Israel.