'The clock is ticking backward'

Letter threatening PM found on grave of his brother, Yoni Netanyahu

Police and Shin Bet investigating; note calls on Netanyahu to reconquer Gaza Strip, bring home captives; apparently unrelated to judicial overhaul disputes

Benjamin Netanyahu his wife Sara, family and friends attend a memorial ceremony for Netanyahu's brother, Yoni Netanyahu, at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery, in Jerusalem, on June 16, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Benjamin Netanyahu his wife Sara, family and friends attend a memorial ceremony for Netanyahu's brother, Yoni Netanyahu, at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery, in Jerusalem, on June 16, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

A letter threatening harm to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was found on the grave of his brother Yoni Netanyahu in Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl military cemetery on Friday, police said.

Police said that the Shin Bet security agency was also involved in the probe and investigators were using a variety of methods to find the person who placed the letter on the grave. No suspects have been detained so far.

The incident came amid stepped-up protests against Netanyahu and his government after it decided to push ahead with the controversial judicial overhaul legislation, and amid heightened political rhetoric that has seen threats made against leaders on both sides of the dispute.

However, the letter did not appear to be connected to the judicial overhaul controversy, apparently making demands that Netanyahu reconquer the Gaza Strip and secure the release of Israelis being held there.

“What’s happening Yoni, you hero? What’s going on up there?” the letter says, according to a copy published by Hebrew media.

“I was asked to inform your brother, Pee-Pee Netanyahu, that he has a little or a lot going for him, but it’s over,” the note continues, in an apparent gibe at the prime minister’s nickname “Bibi.”

“From here, Mt. Herzl, this sanctified place, the clock is ticking backward, until [October 13-14] on which your brother, the son of a bitch, thinks he’ll reach age 74,” the letter said referencing Netanyahu’s birthday according to the Hebrew calendar.

The letter goes on to say “let it be clear that this is a threat of the first order,” next to which is written in English “red alert level” accompanied by a smiley face.

“Bibi, you’re no better than [Ariel] Sharon,” it adds, before wishing Netanyahu suffers a fate worse than the former premier, who died after eight years in a vegetative state that followed a massive stroke.

After lobbing further invective against Netanyahu, the letter states he has several missions: reconquering the Gaza Strip and returning “the body of my counselor, Hadar Goldin, and the rest of the captives.”

The Hamas terror group, which conquered Gaza two years after Sharon led a full military and civilian withdrawal from the enclave in 2005, is holding the bodies of Goldin and Oron Shaul — who were both killed fighting in the 2014 Gaza war — along with two living Israelis believed to have entered the Strip on their own accord.

“Fuck you, you lazy whore,” the letter concludes in English.

The Shin Bet issued a later statement in which they vowed to use “all tools at their disposal” to find the letter writer.

Yonatan Netanyahu (photo credit: GPO, Wikimedia)
Yonatan Netanyahu (photo credit: GPO, Wikimedia)

“The General Security Service does not intend to ignore a direct threat against the prime minister that was placed on the grave of an Israeli hero and will deal with this incident with all tools at its disposal,” a senior Shin Bet source said, referring to the agency by its official name.

The threatening letter comes just weeks after Netanyahu and his family visited the grave to mark the 47th anniversary of Yoni Netanyahu’s death leading an elite IDF force in the Entebbe hostage rescue.

The July 4, 1976 operation saw the rescue of 98 hostages taken captive on June 27, 1976 by Palestinian and German terrorists, who hijacked an Air France jet flying from Tel Aviv to Paris. The plane was diverted to Uganda, where the hijackers were welcomed by dictator Idi Amin.

Four hostages were killed during the operation, along with Yoni Netanyahu.

Netanyahu has received several death threats in recent months, with most of them connected to his hardline government’s controversial legislation.

Opponents of the government’s judicial overhaul rallied Friday outside the homes of several ministers, as demonstrators move to intensify protests against the coalition’s legislative efforts.

The protests came a day after  Benjamin Netanyahu, Justice Minister Yariv Levin and far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir hit out at top law enforcement officials during a meeting to discuss what they called the lax law enforcement at rallies outside the homes of coalition lawmakers.

Demonstrations against the effort to remake the judicial system have gathered renewed steam over the past week as the ruling Likud party and its coalition partners have renewed its legislative push.

On Tuesday, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice convened for additional deliberations on a bill to block justices from exercising judicial review over the “reasonableness” of government decisions.

Coalition figures have vowed to pass such legislation before the Knesset summer recess in a month. And Netanyahu has stated his government will also move later on to reshape the powerful Judicial Selection Committee, though he has added this will take a different shape than Levin’s previous plan to assert full political control over the process.

Opponents of the government’s judicial overhaul plans protest outside Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s home in Modiin, June 27, 2023. (Jonathan Shaul/Flash90)

While protesters somewhat lowered the flames over the past few months while the judicial overhaul legislation was paused, organizers said that now that the government has begun moving ahead in the Knesset with certain elements of the plan, they will renew efforts.

Police are bracing for an escalation in demonstrations that are expected over the weekend and early next week, with protest organizers calling for a blockade of Ben Gurion Airport on Monday.

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