Netanyahu condemns incitement from “all sides” but also denounces “electoral fraud” as Israeli officials fear violence

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(JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday condemned the violent rhetoric from “all sides” of the political spectrum, but also claimed that the new Israeli government, which will replace him, is the result of “the biggest electoral fraud in the world. ‘history of the country’.

Netanyahu’s speech came as the head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service warned of rising rhetoric that encourages violence. A pro-Netanyahu lawmaker has likened two of his rivals to “terrorists” facing a “death sentence,” and members of the new coalition have received death threats in recent days.

At least one US Middle Eastern analyst compared Netanyahu’s words to the rhetoric of former President Donald Trump before January 6.

“Recently, we have identified an increase and a serious exacerbation of violent and inciting speeches, in particular on social networks” mentionned Nadav Argaman, the head of the Shin Bet, which roughly equates to the FBI in the United States. “This speech could be interpreted by certain groups or individuals as an authorization to commit violent and illegal activities which could, God forbid, harm human life. “

Last week, an ideologically diverse coalition of opponents of Netanyahu said they would be able to form a government that would end Netanyahu’s 12-year tenure as prime minister, the longest in history. Israel. The coalition will have the lowest majorities in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, and must be elected before taking office.

Netanyahu and his allies tried to persuade members of the coalition to defect and vote against, which would deprive it of a majority. The vote approving the new government will take place no later than June 14.

In the days surrounding the announcement of the new government, right-wing groups demonstrated outside the private homes of new coalition politicians, and some lawmakers were given increased security after receiving death threats.

An open letter from leading right-wing Zionist religious rabbis published on Saturday evening appeals to readers to “do everything to ensure that this government is not formed”. Subsequently, prominent signatories declared that they did not tolerate violence.

In addition, Israeli officials are weighing whether to allow right-wing activists to march through Jerusalem’s Old City on Thursday, in a parade that has already featured racist chants. The parade was postponed to Thursday after being interrupted by rocket fire from Gaza last month.

Netanyahu’s Likud Party MP May Golan on Sunday compared two members of the new coalition to “suicide bombers”: Naftali Bennett, the new prime minister, and Gideon Saar – both of whom were allies of Netanyahu before join with his political rivals. .

“Not at all to assimilate these things, but I compare them today to suicide bombers”, said Golan in an interview with Israeli television. “They are like terrorists who believe in nothing, go on a suicide mission, [and] even if they know they are on death row, they don’t care.

Earlier that day, in a word to Likud lawmakers, Netanyahu publicly condemned the violent rhetoric for the first time since the new government was announced. He claimed that he and his family had also received death threats, which he said were not treated with the same weight.

“We condemn all incitement and violence from all sides,” he said in his speech on Sunday. “The principle must be clear and the same for everyone. Incitement and violence, and incitement to violence, will continue to be prohibited.

But he added: “You cannot treat criticism of the right as incitement and criticism of the left as a legitimate act of free expression.

Immediately after saying this, Netanyahu claimed that the new government was the result of historic electoral fraud. And at the end of his speech, he said, as he has done several times recently, that the new government “is endangering the State of Israel in a way that we have not seen since. many years “.

“We are witnessing the biggest electoral fraud in the history of the country and, in my opinion, in the history of democracy,” he said. “And so people quite rightly feel very deceived, and they react to that. You cannot silence them.

He added that “the commentators, the studios and all the absurd propaganda machine that has come together for their benefit – you don’t need to be afraid to sue them, my friends. Because it is part of the fraud.

The outgoing Prime Minister has also made it clear that he has no plans to retire if the new government takes office. Netanyahu, who is expected to become leader of the parliamentary opposition, said that if the new government “is established, God forbid, we will overthrow it very quickly.”

An American scholar who studies Israel, Aaron David Miller, wrote on Twitter that Netanyahu’s speech echoed the rhetoric of former President Donald Trump after his defeat last year, which led to the violent insurgency on the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

“Disturbing echoes from Trump,” tweeted Miller, a former Middle East analyst at the State Department. “Netanyahu calls the elections the biggest voter fraud. Is January 6 in Israel Coming? ”

Meanwhile, the leaders of the new coalition are preparing to take office. The leaders of its eight parties, which span political right and left and include an Arab-Israeli party, met on Sunday for the first time since their coalition was announced.

In a speech on Sunday, Bennett called on Netanyahu to move on and let the new government take office. He condemned the violence but also said that “any opposition to the government is not incitement” and that politicians must “develop thick skin”.

“It’s not a catastrophe, it’s not a tragedy, it’s a change of government – a normal occurrence in any democratic state,” Bennett said. “I call Mr. Netanyahu: let go. Allow the state to move forward. People are allowed to vote for a government even if you don’t run it.

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