Transportation Minister Miri Regev likened some protesters against the government’s judicial shakeup to terrorists on Saturday evening, the second figure close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has used such language to refer to hundreds of demonstrators who gathered last Wednesday around a Tel Aviv hair salon where the premier’s wife Sara was getting her hair done.
Sara Netanyahu claimed Thursday that the altercation outside her Tel Aviv salon the day before could have ended in her murder. Protesters have contested her assertion that she was ever in physical danger. Videos from the scene appeared to show protesters keeping their distance from the salon.
At a celebration in Rishon Lezion Saturday ahead of the Purim festival, which will be marked this week, Regev — a close ally of the premier — lambasted the protesters in strong terms: “Hundreds of demonstrators, hate in their eyes, as if this is a kasbah (fortress) of terror.
“I don’t think there is a single level-headed person in Israel who hasn’t been shocked by the sight of an elected prime minister’s wife being rescued by hundreds of cops,” Regev claimed.
“Anarchy by privileged people who think everything is theirs and they’re the only ones who are allowed [to do things],” Regev said of the protest outside the hair salon frequented by the premier’s wife in one of the most exclusive shopping districts in the country.
Regev was dressed up as the Statue of Liberty, explaining that she wants “liberty and equality” for what she described as right-wing, marginalized Israelis, presumably a reference to a common argument by proponents of the legal overhaul that the High Court of Justice has not sufficiently defended the rights of those groups and has acted to inhibit the actions of right-wing governments.
Also Saturday, several news outlets reported that the Prime Minister’s Office is seeking to tighten security for the prime minister’s wife and adult children, by handing the responsibility to the Shin Bet security agency.
Channel 13 news and the Ynet news site said the measure is being weighed due to increased incitement and threats against the Netanyahu family. Ynet cited an unattributed estimation that the request would be granted.
The move requires the approval of a ministerial committee on Shin Bet-related matters, which was set to convene on Sunday. The premier, who chairs the panel, was not expected to attend due to conflict of interest, Channel 13 reported. Justice Minister Yariv Levin and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir were reportedly set to attend.
The first to brand the demonstrators who surrounded the hair salon “terrorists” was Netanyahu’s son Yair, who said Thursday in a since-deleted tweet: “These are not protesters. They are not anarchists either. They are terrorists! A violent underground movement has sprung up here (with billions in funding from criminals and evil people). We’re talking about domestic terrorism.”
In a subsequent post on the Telegram messaging app, Netanyahu accused the protesters of trying to “lynch” his mother and said they should be arrested, tried and thrown in jail.
“The line was crossed into a violent coup tonight. In the United States, this would have ended in mass raids on the homes of those involved by the FBI,” he said.
One protester, Inbal Orpaz, filed a police complaint against Yair Netanyahu on Friday, writing in a Facebook post: “I won’t let my blood be cheapened, along with the blood of protesters who include my beloved parents and hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens.
“It’s time to put an end to incitement to violence against protesters,” she added. “I’ve just filed a complaint to the police following a post in which he liked protesters to terrorists, and I encourage you to do so too.”
Yair Netanyahu has a long history of incendiary comments on social media and frequently rails at those he says have wronged him or his family, leading to numerous libel lawsuits against him.
After Yair Netanyahu’s tweet began to attract media attention and public outcry on Friday, he wrote another post clarifying that his choice of the word “terrorist” was “only referring to those who acted violently between the years 2016 and 2023” — ostensibly referring to the period during which protests against his father began taking place en masse.
Protest organizers issued a statement to the media blasting the prime minister’s son.
“This is a dangerous incitement against all citizens. This country is not willing to live in a dictatorship. On Sunday, we will file a complaint for law enforcement to investigate and prosecute this inciter,” the protest leaders said.
The incident at the Tel Aviv hair salon occurred as the prime minister gave a statement to the nation in which he compared the anti-government protesters to settlers who rampaged through a Palestinian town earlier in the week. On Thursday, he tried to downplay the comparison.
Wednesday’s protests coincided with a meeting of the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee, which approved for its first reading in the Knesset plenum a government-backed bill to radically restrict the High Court of Justice’s ability to strike down legislation.
The bill is one of several controversial measures being pushed through the Knesset by the government, which most experts say will cause fundamental harm to Israel’s democratic system of governance by concentrating power with the ruling coalition and removing the court’s ability to act as a check. Supporters of the plan say it will fix a situation in which an unelected judiciary has undermined the will of elected politicians.