Bennett to get security following melee in Haifa

Safety concerns follow depiction of Jewish Home leader on posters with swastikas and Hitler mustache; Livni also to get 24/7 detail

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Economy minister and Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett, February 8, 2015 (photo credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Economy minister and Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett, February 8, 2015 (photo credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett was set to be assigned a 24-hour security detail Thursday, after posters depicting the Jewish Home leader as Hitler with a swastika on his forehead appeared in the capital.

The nationalist politician was also caught in a violent confrontation Wednesday when gay rights activists clashed with Jewish Home supporters as Bennett was due to speak in Haifa.

In a post to his Facebook page Thursday Bennett accused Israel’s left-wing of incitement against him, invoking the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was shot by a right-wing Jewish gunman said to have been inspired by extremist anti-government rhetoric.

“The left has learned nothing from the murder of Rabin,” Bennett wrote and claimed that the activists in the confrontation were members of the Labor party.

Bennett, who leads the national-religious Jewish Home party, called on Labor leader Isaac Herzog to speak out against the acts.

“When left-wing activists, including members of your party, take part in a violent incident against my party, you can’t remain silent.”

השמאל לא למד דבר מרצח רבין.**התקשורת יכולה לעצור את זה, ולהרגיע את הרוחות.בוז'י – הכתובת על הקיר, ואתה יכול לעצור את…

Posted by ‎נפתלי בנט – Naftali Bennett‎ on Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Bennett also claimed that MK Ayelet Shaked, a member of his party, had received a terror threat just days before, warning her away from an event or face violent consequences.

But, he said, the threats would not sway him.

“The violence of left-wingers will not change my schedule by a millimeter, no one will silence us. No one.”

On Wednesday evening Bennett gave a political talk in Haifa that was attended by members of the gay community who came to protest against what they says is homophobia by the Jewish Home that openly says it is against legalizing same-sex marriage.

After the left-wing protesters unfurled a flag, members of the audience and security guards asked them to leave, but tempers quickly boiled over leading to a scrap in the aisles. One of the protesters was arrested by police but later released without charges and there were no reports of injuries.

A short video filmed by one of the activists showed the clash.

Bennett claimed that at first his own security personnel tried to dissuade him from entering the building when he arrived for the talk because they knew they were aware of the protesters among the audience. The minister, however, insisted in going ahead with his plans.

Earlier in the week photos circulated on social media Internet sites showing posters displayed in Jerusalem in which Bennett’s portrait was defaced with a Hitler-like mustache and swastikas.

Ministers in Israel do not have constant bodyguard protection unless there is a concern of serious and immediate threat.

In recent weeks there has been an increase in the number of threats against Bennett and his wife, Galit Bennett, who said she feared for his life, Army Radio reported.

“For months I have been pleading for them to increase the security for him, and he tells me to leave him alone,” she said. “They are drawing swastikas on his picture and people with hate in their eyes go to his meetings.”

Zionist Union leader Tzipi Livni was also set to have 24-hour security assigned to her due to her high profile as a prime ministerial contender, Channel 2 news reported Wednesday.

Livni is in a power-sharing agreement with Herzog which would see her serve as prime minister for two years should the party, currently running neck and neck with the ruling Likud party in polls, prevail on March 17.

As opposition leader, Herzog already has a security detail.

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