The Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday issued a temporary restraining order against a supporter of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has verbally harassed the wife and kids of Ze’ev Elkin, a right-wing lawmaker who left the ruling Likud to join a rival party.
Videos posted to Twitter Monday showed a group of Likud activists cursing and screaming at Elkin’s wife, Maria, as she stood by herself outside her home.
“You’re a lunatic, you’re a liar, you’re a traitor,” screamed one Netanyahu supporter, later identified as Rami Ben-Yehuda.
“Your husband has betrayed Israel. You have betrayed Israel,” Ben-Yehuda continued, later adding that she “goes with Arabs” and “collaborates with Al Jazeera,” in reference to the international Arabic news channel. He also called her a “Russian traitor.”
Elkin, a former Likud cabinet minister who was considered a close confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left to join Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party ahead of the March 2021 elections, blasting the prime minister for his conduct and accusing him of putting his personal considerations above the country’s best interests. New Hope is now refusing to join a government headed by Netanyahu, denying him a parliamentary majority.
The judges barred Ben-Yehuda from coming within 500 meters of Elkin’s Jerusalem home, harassing Maria Elkin and other family members, or contacting them in any way.
The decision is temporary, and the matter will be discussed in detail in a hearing on Thursday.
Ben-Yehuda apologized Wednesday for the racist mentions of Elkin’s ethnicity, but not for the harassment or for calling her a traitor.
“I don’t apologize for the word ‘traitor,’ I do apologize for the word ‘Russian,'” he told Radio 103FM. “There are Russians in Likud and I respect them. The media is exaggerating this. I said ‘traitor’ and I stand by that. This woman intervened politically. We came as a group of Likud members to protest, and she came out and cursed us.”
“I am coming to protest against Elkin, at his place of residence,” he added. “I will go to protest against any Knesset member who betrays the State of Israel’s values. The choice is mine.”
He denied being sent by Netanyahu or his associates to stage the protests, in an apparent attempt to distance the demonstration from the premier.
Speaking Tuesday with the Maariv daily, he said Maria Elkin had been “in a frenzy” and claimed she tried to run over the protesters with her car.
בינתיים שוב אלימות מחוץ לביתו של זאב אלקין וקריאות בוגדת כלפי אשתו. נאלץ לעזוב עכשיו את הכנסת ולסייע לאשתו ובנו.
לפני כמה ימים כתב שאלה הדברים שמחזקים אותו בדעתו להוביל לשינוי. pic.twitter.com/F7kENCOyxz
— דפנה ליאל (@DaphnaLiel) April 19, 2021
On Tuesday, Maria Elkin described the event to the Walla news site, recounting how she’d come home Monday evening after dropping her son off at soccer practice to find the group outside her home. They began to verbally abuse her, calling her “a stinking Russian” and “a disgusting gentile, an evil woman, psychotic woman, greedy.”
“My children were crying in the living room, afraid,” she said. “I don’t even have the words; this is not a legitimate tool, this is not a protest. You can’t take a family hostage.”
She later told Channel 12 that the episode lasted more than an hour. “There was nothing political about it,” she said. “It was pure thuggery.”
Ben-Yehuda was party to a similar incident outside Elkin’s house a week ago, where he screamed at their 5-year-old daughter, according to Maria.
טוב, התחלנו. להרחיק ילדים, לקחת גלולות נגד הקאה ולחזות בהשתוללות של האיש שנושא את השם בן-יהודה. מחייה הקללה העברית, אלוף הגידוף, זנב תולע מחליא. המקוללת היא רעייתו של זאב אלקין. pic.twitter.com/psCFDX88TD
— Ben Caspit בן כספית (@BenCaspit) April 19, 2021
Likud supporters have been regularly gathering outside the Elkins’ residence to demonstrate against the Knesset member, as Netanyahu’s prospects of forming a right-wing government have become increasingly dim.
Last week, Netanyahu tried to court new Hope leader Sa’ar to join his government, but Sa’ar remains opposed.
Netanyahu has so far been unsuccessful in securing a coalition, an increasingly difficult task requiring the backing of the Islamist party Ra’am, the approval of far-right Religious Zionism, and the inclusion of Naftali Bennett’s party, Yamina.
On Monday, the Likud party suffered a stinging surprise defeat in a Knesset vote on forming a key committee after Ra’am sided with the opposition. Likud whip Miki Zohar has said that the party now realizes that it will be heading into the opposition.
When he left Likud in December, Elkin accused Netanyahu of “destroying” Likud. He claimed many in the party quietly agreed with him and said he could no longer tell Israelis to “support someone that I’ve stopped believing in.”
Elkin castigated Netanyahu for dragging Israel into four consecutive elections. And he recalled what he said were his personal pleas to Netanyahu to avoid Israel’s most recent election in March.