Right-wing activists protested Thursday evening outside the homes of Yamina MKs Ayelet Shaked and Nir Orbach, pressing them to oppose the proposed government that will see their party leader Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid rotate as prime minister.
Hundreds took part in the rallies, a day after Lapid officially declared that he can form a government, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing religious bloc are seeking to pressure lawmakers from Yamina and the fellow right-wing New Hope party to oppose. If formed, the government would end the premier’s run of 12 consecutive years in office and relegate his Likud party and allied factions to the opposition.
At the rally outside Shaked’s home in Tel Aviv, the leader of the far-right Religious Zionism party Bezalel Smotrich, a former Yamina lawmaker, urged Shaked to come out to “those who embraced you and who you embraced, those who believed in you and you believed in them…. They really feel betrayed.”
Some of the protesters then began chanting, “Shame, shame,” before Smotrich quieted them. He then led a group chant. “Ayelet, listen, the people of Israel live!”
Appearing at both protests was former Likud MK Osnat Mark, who accused Netanyahu’s former governing partners, Bennett and Shaked, of “stealing” the country.
“This is the greatest fraud that’s happened here in Israel,” she told the Walla news site from the protest by Shaked’s house. A small group of counterprotesters, backing the potential government — which will include factions ranging from the pro-settlement Yamina to the left-wing Meretz and Islamist Ra’am party — rallied nearby.
Protesters brandished signs with pictures of Shaked, Orbach, and Yamina’s Idit Silman on which was written: “Stop! Don’t lend your hand to a left-wing government.” Some also waved orange flags, recalling the color used by protesters against Israel’s dismantlement of settlements and withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.
The factions that make up the would-be government together have a bare majority of 61 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, meaning the opposition of any lawmaker could doom the government’s chances of being approved.
Orbach appeared to signal after meeting with Bennett on Thursday that he would not split with the Yamina leader and vote against the possible government, after he had begun considering such a move in recent days. Orbach has long voiced reluctance to back the coalition, but had previously vowed to resign from the Knesset rather than actively vote against the bloc.
Ahead of the protests, Netanyahu’s eldest son said that he was banned from posting on Facebook for 24 hours, after sharing a poster for the demonstration near Orbach’s home.
“Bolsheviks at Facebook blocked me for 24 hours over this picture! The big tech, deep state and pseudo-justice system — together with their puppets in the new government — are leading Israel to a very dark period. Let’s hope it won’t end with gulags,” Yair Netanyahu wrote on Twitter.
The tweet also included emojis of the North Korean flag and a screenshot from Facebook saying he could not post or comment for 24 hours.
Yair Netanyahu, who has a history of posting incendiary messages on social media, and who tweets frequently against those he believes have wronged him and his family, did not say why he was blocked. There was no immediate comment from Facebook.
Under Facebook’s privacy rules, the social media giant removes content that shares others’ identifying information, including addresses. The poster shared by Netanyahu listed an address.
Likud had urged its supporters to rally outside Shaked’s home, sharing a poster on its Twitter account that listed an address. The poster was not shared by Likud on Facebook or Instagram, which is also owned by Facebook.
The demonstrations against the so-called “change government” have been particularly intense in recent days, taking place outside the homes of prospective ministers, including Bennett, the Yamina lawmakers and Meretz’s Tamar Zandberg. The hecklers have included pro-Netanyahu activists, right-wing families of terror victims and young members of the national-religious camp.
On Thursday morning the Shin Bet security service said its unit that protects the top officials of the state, Unit 730, had placed a security detail around Bennett, the coalition-to-be’s first prime minister.
On Monday, the Knesset Guard reportedly increased security around Shaked due to threats she received. Security around Bennett was already increased earlier this month in response to threats against his life, the party said at the time.
On Tuesday, Meretz MK Zandberg took her family out of their home following a string of threats against her and her baby daughter, in the wake of false information published about her proposed legislation to restrict the proselytizing of minors.
Also Tuesday, the Yisrael Beytenu party, which is part of the change bloc of anti-Netanyahu parties, said it had received a number of threatening calls. The party said some of the calls included “harsh threats of murder” toward staff at the right-wing secularist party’s headquarters and against its leader, Avigdor Liberman.
Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz lamented Monday that threats against Yamina party leaders over their intention to join forces with him and others in forming a government have shown that the country has not learned the lessons from the 1995 assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin by a right-wing extremist.
If the emerging government is sworn in, Israel will have a new prime minister for the first time since 2009. Along with the over 12 consecutive years he has served as premier since then, Netanyahu was also prime minister for three years in the late 1990s.