President Isaac Herzog penned a letter to party chairs on Thursday, calling on them to avoid incitement in the run-up to the November 1 elections and to accept the results, whatever they may be.
Noting a “discernible rise in physical and verbal violence in the streets and on social media,” Herzog appealed to political leaders to “set a personal example” and refrain from using inciteful language during their campaigns.
“I beseech you to forcefully condemn and rebuke all incitement and violence, if they arise, especially if they come from the ranks of your supporters,” Herzog wrote.
“Let us not forget for a moment that what unites us is greater than what divides us, and that the day after the elections, we will also all need to continue living here together,” he added.
In June 2021, a month before the swearing-in of the current coalition government, then-Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman issued a rare warning that rising incitement and hate speech on social media could spark political violence.
In recent years, political figures from across the political spectrum have increasingly been targeted with death threats, while accusing one another of using inciteful language.
Former prime ministers Naftali Bennett and Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as current premier Yair Lapid, have all faced death threats in the past year. Meanwhile, there have been instances where political activists have been both physically and verbally accosted on the street.
Right-wing politicians, including Netanyahu, have long been accused of being involved in incitement that led to the 1995 assassination of leader Yitzhak Rabin.
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.
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.”
Herzog in particular pressed politicians “to be considerate of the pain of bereaved families” and to not use their slain relatives as “propaganda tools,” as the election campaign takes place against a backdrop of a wave of violence in the West Bank.
Finally, the president urged party chairs to ensure their supporters have confidence in the democratic process and to respect the results of the election “whatever they may be,” and called on all citizens to participate in the vote.
Herzog’s call appeared to be a plea to avoid a repetition of the situation in the US, where former president Donald Trump’s baseless refusal to accept the results of the election has continued to undermine the American political system.
In less than two weeks, Israelis head to the polls for the fifth time since 2019.