Only days after the head of the Shin Bet security service warned that Israel’s increasingly heated political rhetoric could boil over into physical violence, one of the prime minister’s political allies compared two of the leaders of the anti-Netanyahu change bloc to terrorists on a suicide mission during a televised interview on Sunday.
“What is most dangerous in public leaders is when they have nowhere to go back to. And [Yamina chairman Naftali] Bennett and [New York leader Gideon] Sa’ar have nowhere to go back to,” Likud lawmaker May Golan declared during an appearance on the Knesset Channel, reflecting the anger of some on the right at the decision of the two former Netanyahu supporters to seek to oust the longtime leader.
“And while there are obvious differences, I compare them to suicide bombers,” she said, adding that the two politicians “no longer believe in anything.”
Asked to reconsider her language in the wake of Shin Bet director Nadav Argaman’s warning on Saturday that increasingly harsh rhetoric against members of the change bloc could lead to someone being physically harmed, Golan replied that the security chief “can continue to speak as he likes.”
“I won’t recant. They decided to die with the Philistines,” Golan declared, in an allusion to the Biblical Samson, who killed himself in the process of slaying his enemies.
“They don’t care what will happen in the end. They have nowhere to go back to” after cheating “every single person who voted for them,” she said.
Speaking before Likud lawmakers at a party faction meeting in the Knesset on Sunday, Netanyahu “condemned violence from every side, even as others are silent as incitement rages against us,” but reasserted that freedom of expression does not constitute incitement.
“You cannot consider criticism from the right as incitement and criticism from the left as a legitimate act of freedom of expression. This is an attempt to frame the right as something violent and dangerous to democracy,” he claimed.
During an interview with Channel 20 on Sunday evening, Netanyahu accused the change bloc of being in league with the “deep state” that he has previous claimed controls the country, undermining Israeli democracy.
On Sunday, Yamina lawmakers Idit Silman and Nir Orbach were provided with extra security, a week after party leaders Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, as well as Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, had their own security bolstered in the wake of rising incitement.
Yamina lawmakers have been under intense pressure from Netanyahu and his allies to bolt the new coalition.
Last Thursday, the Likud party called on its supporters to demonstrate outside the homes of Shaked and Orbach, who had expressed reservations about supporting his party’s chosen course.
Netanyahu’s son Yair was temporarily banned from Instagram last week for posting Orbach’s address online in a post calling on people to join the Likud protest. In response, Orbach tweeted that he was against the ban, writing that “in Israel, everyone is allowed to demonstrate and protest and I would be happy for it to remain so, even if the demonstration is directed against me.”