Blue and White leader Benny Gantz accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of being involved in incitement that led to the 1995 assassination of leader Yitzhak Rabin and hinted at worries for his own safety Saturday night.
Gantz, Netanyahu’s chief rival in upcoming Knesset elections, has begun appearing in public with bodyguards following instances of online threats.
Asked by Channel 12 news about a reported recording in which he tells associates that Netanyahu could want to have him killed, he referenced heated rhetoric that has been blamed for the assassination of Rabin outside a Tel Aviv rally.
“Remember, things have already occurred in Israel, in which unfortunately, Mr. Netanyahu was on stage, and walking behind a coffin in another place,” he told the channel’s “Meet the Press” program. “We’ve seen how exaggerating things like this ends.”
Rabin was murdered on November 4, 1995, by Yigal Amir, an extremist Jew, who was opposed to the Oslo Accords and the handing over of control of parts of the West Bank to the Palestinians as a part of the landmark peace agreement.
In the weeks before the assassination, Netanyahu, then head of the opposition, and other senior Likud members attended a right-wing political rally in Jerusalem where protesters branded Rabin a “traitor,” “murderer” and “Nazi” for signing a peace agreement with the Palestinians earlier that year.
He also marched in a Ra’anana protest as demonstrators behind him carried a mock coffin.
Netanyahu has regularly rebuffed the allegations that he ignored inflammatory rhetoric that incited to Rabin’s murder and characterized the accusations as a form of “political assassination.”
Gantz, a former head of the Israel Defense Forces, also referenced a right-wing rally in 2017 outside Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv during which some protesters chanted “Gadi be careful, Rabin is looking for a friend,” at then IDF chief Gadi Eizenkot.
“I suggest we not mess around. Look online at see what’s happening there,” Gantz said.
Associates of Gantz have previously warned of “serious incitement” against the candidate, including death wishes, with the severity of the threats reportedly increasing as the April 9 election nears.
Asked if he thought Netanyahu actually wanted him dead, Gantz said “I think he would be very happy if I were not in his way politically.”
Likud supporters have used the recording and other instances of awkward media appearances to call into question Gantz’s mental state. Gantz told the channel that he had not undergone any psychiatric treatment and was not on medication, as alleged in a recent report.
Polls have shown Gantz’s Blue and White party with a slight lead over Likud, though projections indicate he will have a much harder time than Likud cobbling together a coalition.