PM 'prepared to burn everything to avoid trial'

Gantz accuses PM of incitement: ‘The next political murder is around the corner’

After anti-Netanyahu activist assaulted, Blue and White leader alleges Netanyahu ‘intentionally fueling violent and extreme discourse’ to get out of corruption trial

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz addresses supporters at the party's post-election event in Tel Aviv on March 3, 2020. (Gali Tibbon/AFP)
Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz addresses supporters at the party's post-election event in Tel Aviv on March 3, 2020. (Gali Tibbon/AFP)

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz on Friday accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of inciting violence in the wake of this week’s Knesset elections, which again saw the premier and his right-wing religious allies come short of a majority needed to form a government.

“The incitement to violence crosses every line. If we don’t wake up, the next political murder is around the corner,” Gantz wrote on Facebook hours after an anti-Netanyahu protester was assaulted.

He linked the alleged incitement to Netanyahu’s upcoming trial on graft charges and charged that the prime minister was disregarding the results of the elections.

“Netanyahu and his people are intentionally fueling violent and extreme discourse,” Gantz said. “Netanyahu is ignoring the election results and is prepared to burn everything on his way to avoiding trial.”

The premier’s Likud party said Friday it would petition the High Court to review the final tallies from Monday’s voting, claiming “errors in the recording and writing up of results,” without giving evidence. Netanyahu has also accused his political opponents of “trying to steal the election” with a bill that would bar a lawmaker under criminal indictment from forming a government, which would block him from assembling a coalition.

“Bibi [Netanyahu], we saw what happened when the incitement runs wild and no one stopped it in 1995,” Gantz said, referring to the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Netanyahu, who was opposition leader when Rabin was shot dead by a Jewish extremist, has been accused of contributing to an incendiary political climate ahead of the murder. The premier has strongly denied this, dismissing the allegations as “attempts to distort the historical truth.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz at a memorial ceremony marking 24 years since the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, in the Knesset on November 10, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Gantz’s partner in Blue and White Yair Lapid called on the Shin Bet and police to take precautions.

“Again the right is threatening violence, again it is threatening civil war,” he wrote in a post on Facebook, noting widespread threats on social media. “the police and the Shin Bet need to deal with them with determination and all means possible.”

Gantz also said that he would work to form a government and replace Netanyahu.  “There are many options on the table” to do so, he said, which he would soon unveil.

He also appeared to take a shot at Netanyahu for his attacks on the Joint List, an alliance of predominantly Arab parties.

“We’ll respect all citizens of Israel, whether they chose me or not. Just as I expect the nations of the world to respect the Jewish citizens in their lands, we would never dare say that the votes of 20 percent [of the population] from Israel’s Arab citizens are worth less,” Gantz said.

He was referring to a Wednesday meeting in which Netanyahu divided the parties in the Knesset into right-wing and left-wing blocs, while saying the Joint List “is not part of the equation,” accusing its lawmakers of being “terror supporters.”

In a video statement Friday, Netanyahu again claimed his rivals were trying to “steal” the elections.

“They are trying to steal the election in two ways: One way is to legislate an anti-Democratic law that doesn’t exist in any democracy, not even in Iran… The second way is by voter fraud,” he said, referring to Gantz’s pre-election vow not to form a government with support from the Joint List.

Calling Joint List lawmakers “terror supporters” and “slanderers of IDF soldiers,” Netanyahu denied harboring any animus toward Arab voters.

“But what they are trying to do here is form such a dangerous government to the State of Israel in complete contrast to the promises given to the voter,” he said.

Gantz’s Facebook post came after photoshopped pictures were posted on social media of Blue and White and Joint List leaders wearing Palestinian keffiyeh’s in the manner of Yasser Arafat.

Blue and White and Joint List leaders wearing phtotoshopped keffiyehs (Screencapture/Channel 12)

It also followed the arrest of a man on suspicion of assaulting an activist for an anti-corruption watchdog while he was protesting outside the President’s Residence in Jerusalem against the possibility Netanyahu be asked to form the next government while under indictment.

Police said the man in his 30s was held on suspicion of assault and also for stealing a number of items from the activist from the Movement for Quality Government in Israel.

The watchdog argues that Netanyahu should not be asked by President Reuven Rivlin to form a coalition as he faces trial on criminal charges.

A second activist said a group of thugs set upon the man in the protest tent.

“In the middle of the night they arrived, knocked him to the ground, hit him and broke his phone and glasses,” the second person told Channel 12 news.

The Movement for Quality Government in Israel filed a petition with the High Court of Justice on Tuesday arguing that Netanyahu should not be allowed to form the next government as he faces trial on criminal charges. However, the court rejected the petition because it was filed before the election results were finalized.

Opposition parties have said they want to advance legislation that would prevent a person facing criminal charges from forming a government. The legislation is aimed directly at Netanyahu, who has served four terms as prime minister and has been charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three criminal cases that he denies any wrongdoing in; his trial is slated to begin on March 17.

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