Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited a fast food steak shop in Ramle on Tuesday; but what was intended to be an informal photo-op and fact-finding mission to assess how small businesses are enduring the coronavirus pandemic ran into controversy after a supporter outside called for “death” to the premier’s political opponents.
Following a visit to a local IDF Home Front Command base, Netanyahu stopped at the eatery to ask the owners if they had received government assistance for their business and if customers were returning.
As he exited and walked away, backers outside cried out “Bibi we love you,” and other supportive comments, while one shouted out “Bibi, death to all leftists! Leftists are bastards, Bibi, death to the left!”
Netanyahu, who has been accused by rivals and critics of fomenting divisions and hatred between Israel’s political camps, did not stop to respond to the comments or condemn them.
Sources close to Netanyahu told the Ynet website that the prime minister was out of earshot and did not hear the remarks.
ראש הממשלה מסייר עכשיו ברמלה. המעריצים: "ביבי ימותו כל השמאלנים, השמאלנים מניאקים, כל השמאל מת". pic.twitter.com/FePzlaZOKA
— ישכר זלמנוביץ (@Isachar1495) August 4, 2020
Opposition leader MK Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid-Telem party tweeted “I believe the prime minister didn’t hear, he is detached” a reference to Lapid’s motto that the government is not in tune with the public.
Netanyahu later tweeted a response writing “I am happy that the left has suddenly grown ears.”
“For me, it is constant: I condemn incitement and violence from all sides. Not outside my home in the demonstrations of the left and not in the street.”
He also called on Lapid and Joint List party head Ayman Odeh to condemn alleged threats on his life during protests outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem.
Earlier Netanyahu had posted to his Facebook page a video of his visit to the eatery and urged the public to “Forget about the diet, go out and eat and support the small businesses.”
עזבו דיאטה, צאו לאכול ולחזק את העסקים הקטנים. אביקו ברמלה, היה טעים. תודה על התמיכה ועל הפיתה!
פורסם על ידי Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו ב- יום שלישי, 4 באוגוסט 2020
The incident came as Netanyahu on Tuesday responded to comments made by his son a day earlier branding anti-government protesters “aliens” and saying the premier was “amused” by the demonstrations.
While Yair Netanyahu backtracked and said he only meant that the protesters in costume were “aliens,” the prime minister said during the tour of the military base in Ramle that there are “bizarre phenomena” at the demonstrations, and that he assumed these were what his son referenced.
He didn’t elaborate on what those phenomena were, but repeated past claims that the protests are hotbeds of incitement to murder him.
“There are also strange phenomena there, apart from the political side, and really the relentless incitement against me, against my wife, against my family — with even direct calls for murder that are barely reported, if at all,” said Netanyahu. “I think [the demonstrations are] a political thing which also has bizarre phenomena, and I think that’s what my son was referring to.”
The Black Flag organization behind the protests reacted by saying “‘Bizarre’ is a prime minister who gives himself a tax break of a million shekels while there are millions of unemployed at home.”
“‘Bizarre’ is when a criminal defendant is prime minister while dealing day and night with his own trial,” the group added in a statement.
In an interview with Galey Israel on Monday, Yair Netanyahu said he shows his father “select clips” from the demonstrations, which have been held several times a week across the country and outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem.
“My father’s a strong man. It makes him laugh,” Netanyahu said. “He sees what we all see — these aliens at the protests. It makes him laugh, like entertainment.”
He later added on Twitter: “When I spoke about ‘aliens,’ at the left-wing protests in Jerusalem, I meant those who are dressed up as aliens and UFOs, those who strip, those who dress up as genitals, those who brandish crude signs, those who put a spaghetti pot on their heads and those dressed up as Spider-Man. There are too many of these, and it’s funny.”
Thousands of Israelis have come out to demonstrate against the prime minister this summer, calling on him to resign over corruption charges he faces in an ongoing trial and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Benjamin Netanyahu has several times derided the demonstrations as attracting a number of protesters equivalent to “a quarter of a Knesset seat” and accused the media of inflating their importance.