Soldier arrested for social media posts threatening Bennett

Resign or we’ll harm your family, letters with bullets said to warn PM Bennett

For second time this week, letter with death threats and a bullet sent to prime minister’s family; Thursday’s was addressed to his teenage son

Yoni Bennett, the son of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, attends a ceremony held at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, as Israel marks annual Holocaust Remembrance Day, on April 27, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Yoni Bennett, the son of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, attends a ceremony held at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, as Israel marks annual Holocaust Remembrance Day, on April 27, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

For the second time this week, a letter containing death threats and a bullet was sent Thursday to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his family.

Channel 12 reported that both letters included a direct threat to Bennett to either resign from office or his family would be “harmed.”

Thursday’s letter was addressed to Bennett’s 15-year-old son Yoni, and was sent to Bennett’s home in Ra’anana. Renovation work is taking place at the official Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem.

The letter was sent to the prime minister’s home, but was intercepted at the post office, Channel 12 reported.

On Tuesday, a similar letter addressed to Bennett and to his wife Gilat was delivered to a building adjacent to the family home, where Gilat’s office is located.

Also Thursday, IDF Military Police arrested a soldier suspected of publishing several social media posts threatening Bennett, Kan news reported. Military police planned to extend the soldier’s remand as the investigation was still in its early stages, the report said.

Channel 12 reported that officials believed both letters threatening Bennett’s family were sent by the same person or group. They reportedly used similar language and included live bullets of the same type. A Kan TV report, by contrast, said it was believed Thursday’s letter was sent by a “copycat.”

After the receipt of Tuesday’s letter, security officials in the Prime Minister’s Office immediately decided to reinforce the unit responsible for protecting Bennett’s family, while the Lahav 433 serious crimes unit and the Shin Bet security agency said they were launching a joint investigation into the incident.

While Bennett’s family does not currently face immediate danger, according to police, security officials have indicated that they are taking the threats seriously.

Police said both letters contained “detailed murder threats” toward the Bennett family and security officials believe whoever sent them had “gathered information” about the family.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett with his family, in the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 13, 2021. (Ariel Zandberg/Yamina)

Responding to the first threatening letter, Bennett’s son Yoni, the recipient of the second letter, wrote on his Instagram account: “It’s so sad to see these things happen because of incitement and people who got brainwashed by other people (I do not want to call them people) who have a platform and they influence others and deserve to go to jail for the brainwashing they do to people.

“I wish we lived fifty years ago when people respected each other. They didn’t agree but didn’t f***** incite to murder. I know that comments on posts are meaningless but it’s just sad to see real people write such horrible things. To think that this person lives and breathes like me but has the mind of the devil is surreal.”

Bennett hinted on Tuesday that the motive behind the letter was political, saying on Twitter that such disputes shouldn’t rise to the level of “violence, bullying or death threats.”

“I’m the prime minister and a political figure, but I’m also a husband and father and it’s my duty to protect my wife and children,” Bennett wrote. He urged “everybody, from across the political spectrum, and especially people who are active on social media” to “lower the flames of political discourse.” This period ahead of national remembrance days and Independence Day, he said, “is the time for calm and reconciliation.”

Bennett’s coalition partners, including Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, denounced the threatening letters. Lapid said, after the first letter arrived, that it showed “where hatred can lead.” Gantz said the threats constituted “the crossing of a red line,” adding that “a bullet in an envelope can turn into three bullets fired from a pistol” — in reference to the assassination of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin by a right-wing extremist in 1995.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (left), Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (center), and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attend a plenum session in the Knesset, on January 31, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, who has faced political threats herself, wrote on Twitter earlier this week: “The threats addressed to the prime minister and his family are a shock to the core… It’s unacceptable that the leader of a Jewish state should face mortal danger from within.”

By contrast, Religious Zionism party leader Bezalel Smotrich, a bitter rival of Bennett’s, questioned whether the incident was a case of “spin to boost Bennett’s [political] standing.”

Police have investigated a number of threats against the prime minister in the past, usually made over social media.

In August 2021, a 23-year-old resident of Ashkelon was detained over an alleged threatening Facebook comment he made on a post from Bennett expressing condolences to the family of Barel Hadaria Shmueli. The Border Police officer died after being shot on the Gaza border during violent protests nine days earlier.

Earlier that month, another resident of the south was detained for questioning over apparent threats against the prime minister.

In May 2021, before Bennett became prime minister, the Knesset Guard boosted security for him and his home after a series of threats amid feverish coalition talks and a heated political atmosphere.

Later that month, police investigated threats made against Bennett on social media, including images circulating of him wearing an Arab headdress with the caption “the liar” — similar to images made of Rabin before his assassination.

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