Labor MK says Netanyahu to blame for death threats against her

Labor MK says Netanyahu to blame for death threats against her

Stav Shaffir says prime minister leading group of extremists who have threatened her since tussle with far-right Otzma Yehudit over bid to have party banned

Zionist Union MK Stav Shaffir in the Knesset, February 13, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Zionist Union MK Stav Shaffir in the Knesset, February 13, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Labor lawmaker Stav Shaffir blamed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a series of death threats she has received from the extreme right.

Shaffir, a leading MK with the party, has had a bodyguard assigned to her since becoming the target of vicious attacks over her attempts to have the far-right Otzma Yehudit party banned from running for election last week.

“I don’t blame the extremists, I blame only one: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” she told a party gathering in Haifa Saturday, according to the Ynet news website.

“Instead of calming things, he’s the one standing at the head of the posse.”

Netanyahu has come under attack at home and abroad over his role in engineering a political deal that saw the right-wing Jewish Home and Otzma Yehudit merge, likely guaranteeing members of the extremist party a spot in the Knesset.

On Thursday, Shaffir accused Netanyahu of “encouraging” those who “undermine democracy,” by failing to attempt to calm tensions and “stop the death threats coming from his camp.”

The same day police arrested an Otzma Yehudit supporter on suspicion of having sent the threats.

Messages sent to Shaffir’s phone included: “I will murder you,” “electric shocks to your leftist brain would help,” and “I will murder you, burn you, you bitch.”

It’s not clear if more than one person has made threats against Shaffir.

Shaffir was one of several lawmakers who petitioned to prevent Otzma Yehudit party from running in the upcoming elections.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a graduation ceremony for Israeli Navy cadets in Haifa on March 6, 2019 (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)

Otzma Yehudit leaders have described themselves as proud disciples of the late ultra-nationalist rabbi Meir Kahane, whose own movement was banned as a terror group. The party supports encouraging emigration of non-Jews from Israel, and expelling Palestinians and Israeli Arabs who refuse to declare loyalty to Israel and to accept diminished status in an expanded Jewish state whose sovereignty extends throughout the West Bank.

On Wednesday, Shaffir clashed with Otzma Yehudit Knesset candidates during a Central Election Committee meeting to review petitions calling for their party and some of its members to be disqualified from running in the April 9 elections over their ideology.

Under Israeli law, candidates can be banned for supporting terror, racism, the destruction of the state or other extreme views.

Itamar Ben Gvir of the extremist Otzma Yehudit party, right, shouts at Labor party member Stav Shafir, left at the Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset elections, March 6, 2019 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Attorney Itamar Ben Gvir charged that Shaffir and fellow Labor MK Michal Biran had “gone from place to place calling us Nazis,” and tried to hand Shaffir in the committee room notice of a libel suit demanding NIS 500,000 in damages. Ben Gvir said he had filed the suit earlier Wednesday in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.

The elections committee ultimately voted to approve Otzma Yehudit and all its members for the elections, overriding a recommendation from Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit that candidate Michael Ben-Ari be banned.

Shaffir told Channel 13 news last week she would not be intimidated by the threats.

“I am not afraid of them and I will not let them intimidate our country. Israeli democracy is stronger than they are, and will bravely withstand this test,” she said.

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