Likud’s Steinitz threatened, compared to Nazis after call for mandatory vaccinations

‘Nuremberg trials number 2 are on the way’: Lawmaker requests investigation by Knesset Guard after deluge of violent messages

Luke Tress is an editor and a reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

Likud lawmaker Yuval Steinitz, then serving as energy minister, at the Knesset in Jerusalem on May 23, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud lawmaker Yuval Steinitz, then serving as energy minister, at the Knesset in Jerusalem on May 23, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Lawmaker Yuval Steinitz requested the Knesset Guard investigate violent threats against him from anti-vaccine activists on Tuesday, days after he called for mandatory vaccinations to combat the pandemic.

Steinitz expressed support for mandatory vaccinations, backed up by fines for those who refused, in media interviews earlier this week.

Steinitz, a former energy minister, is in the opposition with former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

“The time has come for mandatory vaccinations, at least for the adult population, to protect the public and the economy. There is a collective interest here, like how it’s mandatory to wear car seatbelts,” Steinitz said Sunday in an interview with Army Radio.

In an interview with Ynet, he said the government had enacted mandatory vaccinations as recently as 30 years ago.

“This pandemic threatens us all. I respect differing opinions and they’re allowed, but there are cases, such as war with an enemy, that collective decisions are made through democratic mechanisms,” he said.

“The moment the government proposes a mandatory vaccination law against coronavirus, I’ll do everything to convince the opposition to support it.”

Man receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Katzrin, November 16, 2021 (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

Since he started backing mandatory vaccinations, Steinitz has received abusive messages to his phone and on social media, including verbal attacks and violent threats.

One of the messages likened his plan to Holocaust roundups by the Nazis.

“Just put a patch on us and put us in a ghetto. Keep going with your transports to work camps and gas chambers and the ovens. Don’t worry. Nuremberg trials number 2 are on the way, and you will have your place there,” one person wrote.

Another threatened, “I see your position as a threat on my life and my family. Take that how you want. Be careful or you will suddenly find millions of citizens coming after you.”

Steinitz brought the messages to the Knesset Guard, which is tasked with protecting the Knesset and lawmakers, to request an investigation. The material is expected to be transferred to the police, who will decide whether to launch an investigation or increase security for Steinitz.

The incident comes as Israeli officials call for more vaccinations, including among children, as the government scrambles to contain the Omicron variant.

Last week, Israel began vaccinating 5 to 11-year-olds, prompting threats against health officials, most notably Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, the head of public health services at the Health Ministry, who has been provided by police with a full-time security detail.

Out of a population of 9.4 million, 5.7 million Israelis have received two vaccine doses, and 4 million have had a third booster shot, according to Health Ministry data.

Health officials said last week that around 600,000 eligible adults have not recovered from the virus or received any vaccine shots.

Figures released by health providers on Monday showed that the 5-11 age group was getting inoculated at a faster clip than the earlier campaign for older children.

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