The ministerial committee that oversees the operations of the Shin Bet security agency voted Sunday to stop providing personal security for former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife and adult sons, six months after the longtime leader was ousted from power.
The decision, which goes into effect Monday, came despite pleas from Netanyahu that his family is regularly subjected to death threats.
While his sons Yair and Avner, and wife Sara, will lose their security detail, Netanyahu himself will be protected by the Shin Bet for the next 20 years.
Netanyahu was unseated from the prime minister’s office in June after a constellation of political parties united in their opposition to him succeeded in forming a government without his long-ruling Likud party. The former premier, who served in that position for 12 consecutive years and three years in the 1990s, is now the opposition leader and continues to have a state-issued security detail.
Under standard procedures, security and a chauffeured vehicle are granted to the family of a former prime minister for the first six months after he leaves office. But in January, at Netanyahu’s insistence, that limit was extended by a ministerial committee to one year.
On Sunday, the same ministerial committee adopted a recommendation from the Shin Bet to reduce the period back to six months.
It said there were no imminent threats to Netanyahu’s wife or children.
“When the Shin Bet, Israel Police, and the Mossad say that there is no threat to the Netanyahu family, the decision is easy,” Public Security Minister Omer Barlev tweeted following the vote. “I am counting on the Shin Bet and police to uncover and deal with such a threat, if there is one.”
Netanyahu slammed the decision, saying it was politically motivated and calling it “outrageous and irresponsible.”
The former prime minister said there had been “explicit threats to murder members of the Netanyahu family” and that the committee’s move was made against the recommendation of the “Magen” body, which is responsible for the protection of current and former premiers and their families.
In response, Magen said that it was “an operational body, not an intelligence unit, and as such relies on the professional opinion of the Shin Bet.”
Netanyahu criticized the anticipated decision in a Facebook video released Friday, saying “the writing is on the wall.” He called on members of the committee, which included security officials, not to “abandon the security of my wife and children.”
He also sent a letter to the Prime Minister’s Office requesting that the high-level protection be extended, saying that local and foreign actors could still target them.
“Do not view the murder threats to the family of former prime minister Netanyahu as threats coming from delusional people,” Netanyahu’s chief of staff wrote in the letter, “since it is precisely from these people that the next murder may come.”
The letter also suggests that Iran or another enemy nation could attempt to harm his family.
“Due to the sensitive nature of the operations that Netanyahu authorized over the years against enemy states, there is an open ‘blood feud’ between them and him and his family,” the letter said. “These things are also expressed in social media posts from Iran that have marked Netanyahu family members as targets for assassination.”
Netanyahu has been criticized in the past for his reluctance to give up the trappings of office despite being voted out of office. It took him more than a month, and the threat of a High Court intervention, to get him to move out of the Prime Minister’s Residence.
Nevertheless, there have been threats against him and his family. Last week a man was indicted for harassment over a tweet in which he threatened to sexually assault Sara Netanyahu.
Netanyahu has made several complaints to police over threats to harm him and his family, including on Sunday when he filed two separate complaints over social media posts, the Ynet news site reported.
Meanwhile, a number of members of the current cabinet, as well as officials involved in Netanyahu’s ongoing graft trial, have extra security due to threats against them and their relatives.