Man arrested for threatening Netanyahu in social media post

Police say investigation opened by its cyber unit after suspect, 21, called for harming the prime minister

Illustrative. A criminal in handcuffs. (Yakobchuk Olena/ iStock, by Getty Images)
Illustrative. A criminal in handcuffs. (Yakobchuk Olena/ iStock, by Getty Images)

A man has been arrested for threatening Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a social media post, the Israel Police said in a statement Tuesday.

The suspect, a 21-year-old resident of the north of the country, was to be brought for a remand hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s court.

He was arrested on Monday by the cyber unit of the police’s Lahav 433 national crime squad, the statement said.

An investigation was opened after the suspect made the threats, police said, without detailing when the post was made or what it contained.

The development came a day after Netanyahu said he filed a complaint with police over threats to him and his family. Police did not say if the two developments were related.

“A few days ago I filed a complaint with the police about a series of threats to murder me and my family. Today, unfortunately, I had to file another complaint against a man detailing how he intended to murder me and my family,” Netanyahu wrote in a Facebook post Monday.

“When will the media and the left, who do not stop for a moment trying to topple a right-wing prime minister, finally condemn the unruly and incessant incitement against me and my family?” he wrote.

(From L-R) Avner, Sara, Benjamin and Yair Netanyahu tour the Golan Heights on April 23, 2019. (PMO)

The prime minister has in recent years intensified his attacks on the media and the left, along with law enforcement bodies, in light of the criminal investigations against him, accusing them of conducting and inciting a “witch hunt” against him.

Netanyahu posted a screenshot of the November post on Facebook that said: “Go to the [Prime Minister’s Residence] on Balfour Street — honor the quartet with beheadings after which their bodies will hang from the balcony.”

“Lead them in a march of shame to [Jerusalem’s central] Zion Square and honor the quartet with a juicy beheading followed by their bodies hanging from the balcony,” the screenshot read.

“Grab the sewer [a play on the prime minister’s nickname Bibi], the female pig and the two cubs, yes even the one from the trivia show,” the post read, referring to the prime minister, his wife and two sons, Yair and Avner, the latter of whom won the National Bible Quiz in 2010 and more recently appeared on the gameshow “The Chase.”

Screen capture from video of left-wing activist Haim Shadmi. (YouTube)

Yair Netanyahu, who lives in the premier’s Jerusalem residence, is an arch-conservative who has become known for his brash and often off-color social media trolling. In April, Netanyahu disavowed his son’s remarks after he appeared to wish death upon left-wing protesters at a Tel Aviv rally against the prime minister.

Last month, left-wing activist Haim Shadmi was called in for questioning under caution by police for allegedly threatening Yair. Shadmi was summoned to the Lahav 433 serious crimes unit, following a complaint filed by the prime minister, as well as a separate complaint filed by Yair Netanyahu himself. Shadmi has published investigative pieces in Zman Yisrael, the Times of Israel’s Hebrew sister site, one of which, on Israel’s health care system, was published last month by The Times of Israel.

Also last month, a 39-year-old Tel Aviv man was arrested on suspicion of inciting violence against the prime minister.

During a remand hearing, police presented the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court with a number of posts published on Facebook by Michael Ronen Agmon, including one in which he said Netanyahu needed to be “neutralized” and another that had a picture of the premier surrounded by skulls and the phrase “Foe of Israel.”

A police representative told the judge during the remand hearing that they had received a tip regarding Agmon from the Prime Minister’s Office. The officer also presented to the court a WhatsApp message allegedly sent by the suspect, in which he called for Netanyahu to be harmed. Agmon told the court, “I strongly oppose violence and had no intention of doing anything.”

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