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‘Bennett the traitor, liar’: Flag march sees chants, posters directed at new PM

Likud backers interrupt TV broadcast to denounce Netanyahu’s right-wing rival; ex-PM’s brother-in-law doubles down on use of term ‘traitor’

An Israeli man waving a flag holds a poster calling Prime Minister Naftali Bennett 'the liar,' during the nationalist flag march, at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, June 15, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
An Israeli man waving a flag holds a poster calling Prime Minister Naftali Bennett 'the liar,' during the nationalist flag march, at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, June 15, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Some right-wing Israelis denounced new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as a “traitor” during an ultranationalist parade Tuesday through parts of Jerusalem’s Old City.

In one incident, backers of former premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party chanted “Bennett the traitor” during a Channel 12 news broadcast. The network cut away from the Likud supporters as they continued to chant.

They also repeatedly chanted “Bibi,” Netanyahu’s nickname.

Posters of Bennett with the text “Bennett the liar” were held up by a number of participants in the contentious flag parade, which also saw some marchers chant “Death to Arabs” and “Burn down your village.”

The posters apparently referred to Bennett’s breaking of his pre-election pledge not to form a government in which he switched off the premiership with Yesh Atid’s Lapid and not to rely on the Islamist Ra’am party’s support.

A poster reading ‘Bennett the liar’ is seen at the nationalist flag march, outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City, June 15, 2021. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Two Likud MKs — Shlomo Karhi and May Golan — took part in the march, as did several far-right lawmakers, including Religious Zionism chief Bezalel Smotrich and Otzma Yehudit’s Itamar Ben Gvir.

Likud and Religious Zionism have denounced Bennett’s formation of a power-sharing coalition with Lapid that includes parties from the center, right, left and the Islamist Ra’am faction. However, Smotrich’s refusal to be part of a minority government backed by Ra’am prevented Netanyahu from putting together a right-wing coalition that included Yamina, leading Bennett to join with Lapid and other anti-Netanyahu parties in the “change bloc” that unseated the Likud leader after 12 straight years as premier.

Also Tuesday, Netanyahu’s brother-in-law doubled down on calling Bennett a “traitor” when he was asked by Channel 12 if he wanted to reverse his use of the term in a recent interview.

Hagi Ben Artzi. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

“I’m a Bible teacher and therefore I use the word that the bible uses to describe cooperation with traitors… the reality must not be obscured,” said Hagi Ben-Artzi, Sara Netanyahu’s brother.

He also claimed the new government is “illegitimate from a Zionist, nationalist and Jewish perspective” and called Bennett and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, the No. 2 in Yamina, a “pair of swindlers and traitors.”

The comments came after Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman issued a rare warning earlier this month about the incitement and violent discourse that was swirling across Israel ahead of Bennett’s ousting of Netanyahu as premier.

“We have recently identified a serious rise and radicalization in violent and inciting discourse, specifically on social media,” Argaman said, warning that such online speech could lead some groups or individuals to violence.

Angry protests and death threats against many lawmakers, particularly those in Bennett’s Yamina Party, prompted enhanced security protection for many MKs.

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