Coalition lawmakers slammed opposition chairman Benjamin Netanyahu for publishing a scathing video in English urging viewers around the world to speak out against the Israeli government, sparking a volley of accusations from each side that the other was endangering democracy.
The round of mudslinging began Sunday, when Netanyahu posted an English video on Facebook, titled “Israeli democracy is under threat,” in which he claimed that the coalition was seeking to “extinguish three basic freedoms” with three respective pieces of legislation — a bill barring an indicted MK from forming a government; the “Facebook bill,” which aims to clamp down on incitement disseminated on social media; and a bill aimed at fighting crime in Arab communities by allowing police to search homes without a warrant.
Netanyahu claimed that the first bill was designed to prevent those who could defeat the current government’s leaders from running in elections. He said the Facebook law is meant to limit freedom of speech on the internet. And he claimed the warrant bill could lead to the government searching the homes of political opponents.
“It’s not a slippery slope. It’s a chasm. It’s a grand canyon where the fundamental rights of democracy are just buried,” Netanyahu said, claiming the bills were a power grab by the coalition and would “affect all other democracies.”
In a plea to like-minded viewers around the world, the Likud leader said, “all of you who share these values, speak up before it’s too late. Because what will start here will very quickly pass on to you.”
The video infuriated coalition leaders, who accused Netanyahu of hypocrisy.
Israeli democracy is under threat. WATCH:
Posted by Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו on Thursday, December 16, 2021
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Monday that he would “not accept lectures [from one] whose own actions have been anti-democratic.
“Unfortunately, the video that was published and that has since gone viral does not represent the reality of the legislation and runs the risk of being used as a tool by our enemies to cause significant damage to the State of Israel,” he told reporters.
In his own Facebook video responding to Netanyahu, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar pointed out that the Likud leader tried to pass a similar Facebook law when he was prime minister “that went even further” than the latest version. Sa’ar also recalled how Netanyahu voted for legislation that would bar an indicted MK from forming a government over a decade ago, when Ehud Olmert was prime minister and facing legal woes.
Yesh Atid MK Boaz Toporovsky penned a letter to Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy, demanding that a Knesset hearing be held to discuss Netanyahu’s video, claiming that the opposition chairman — “who until recently was prime minister” and was now acting “like the worst of Israel’s enemies.”
Toporovsky claimed the video “runs the risk of being used as a tool by our enemies to cause significant damage to the State of Israel.”
Later Monday, Likud posted on Twitter a screenshot of an article published in the US in 2016 about Deputy Minister Yair Golan, then deputy IDF chief, who had compared ongoing trends in Israel to ones of pre-Nazi Germany.
(בצילום – כותרת ראשית של הוושינגטון פוסט שמצטט את חבר הממשלה, סגן השר יאיר גולן: ״הגנרל הישראלי שהשווה את מדינת היהודים לגרמניה הנאצית״) pic.twitter.com/tGOLrBHvne
— הליכוד (@Likud_Party) December 20, 2021
“The Bennett government… attacks former prime minister Netanyahu for revealing to the world the anti-democratic laws it is currently [trying to pass] against the freedom of expression and individual rights of Israeli citizens,” the post said.
The tweet appeared to be the latest attempt by Likud to accuse its opponents of “airing Israel’s dirty laundry abroad.” Ironically, it came after Netanyahu’s English video, in which critics noted he was trying to do the same thing.