Israel’s top Arab lawmaker on Saturday called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “psychopath” and accused him of stirring trouble for those who oppose him.
“Netanyahu’s hatred and violence spread like wildfire. Arabs, left-wing Jews, journalists, the judicial system and even members of his own party” were being ideologically attacked, Joint List head Ayman Odeh wrote on Twitter.
“The outgoing prime minister is a dangerous psychopath who knows no boundaries. A criminal with his back to the wall. Does anyone doubt that he will deny a political motive for the next murder?” Odeh wrote.
The rebuke came hours after Joint List lawmaker Ahmad Tibi was accosted on Saturday by several dozen right-wing activists at a Shabbat cultural and political event in the central town of Ramat Hasharon.
השנאה ואלימות שמפיץ נתניהו מתפשטות כאש בשדה קוצים. ערבים, יהודים שמאלנים, עיתונאים, מערכת המשפט ואפילו חברי מפלגתו שגרועים ממנו מבחינה אידיאולוגית.
ראש הממשלה היוצא הוא פסיכופט מסוכן ללא גבולות. עבריין עם הגב לקיר. למישהו יש ספק שהוא יכחיש את המניע הפוליטי של הרצח הבא?
— Ayman Odeh (@AyOdeh) November 30, 2019
Protesters held placards accusing Tibi of being a “terrorist” and “murderer,” Channel 12 news reported. One sign declared “You’re not wanted here!” while another said “Terrorist supporters — not in our city.”
When Tibi arrived, police were forced to stand between him and the activists, who shouted derogatory remarks at him.
Police detained two protesters suspected of attempting to physically attack Tibi as he entered the premises.
Netanyahu and his supporters have, without offering proof, portrayed Tibi and other Arab lawmakers in recent weeks as supporters of terror groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
As the political deadlock paralyzing much of the country for over a year has continued, Netanyahu has used language deemed by critics as racist to lash out at Arab lawmakers, whom he has accused of thwarting his chances of reaching a coalition agreement with rival party Blue and White. He warned of the possibility of Blue and White chief Benny Gantz forming a minority government backed by the Arab-majority Joint List from the outside.
Earlier this month, the prime minister held a rally where he likened a minority government backed by the Joint List to a “terror attack.” He accused members of the Joint List of seeking to “destroy the country,” and claimed, without proof, that the “dangerous” Arab MKs supported the Gaza terror organizations that Israel fought against in recent weeks.
While some Joint List MKs spoke out against the targeted killing of the Islamic Jihad terror group’s senior commander Baha Abu al-Ata earlier this month as well as the Israel Defense Force’s airstrikes in Gaza, none of them expressed support for Islamic Jihad or its targeting of Israeli civilians.
Tibi has been a vociferous critic of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians over the years. and in 2012 accused Israeli soldiers of being “child-murderers.”
Netanyahu’s remarks about the Joint List drew criticism from his political opponents as well as President Reuven Rivlin, who in an extraordinary rebuke of the prime minister, condemned his “ugly remarks” against an Israeli minority.
At Saturday’s event, Tibi said the prime minister’s “incitement” had consequences.
“If a government had been formed with outside support by the Joint List… one of the Arab MKs would have been murdered,” Tibi told the audience.
Referencing long-standing accusations that Netanyahu supported incitement in the days before the 1995 assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, Tibi said: “It’s worked out once for Netanyahu. We’re easier targets than a serving prime minister.”
Also on Saturday, former Mossad head Shabtai Shavit took a swipe at Netanyahu for incitement, writing on Twitter: “When reading the weekend newspapers, and as someone who experienced the process that resulted in the murder of a prime minister, we cannot help but reflect on the possibility that Yigal Amir part two is in our midst.”
Amir is the convicted killer of Yitzhak Rabin.
Shavit has in the past denigrated Netanyahu and his supporters.
After a tense rally in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, Netanyahu on Wednesday sought to tamp down on inflammatory rhetoric, urging his supporters to respect the law and court system.
“It’s important to act responsibly, within the law, without over-zealousness and without violence. We respect the law and we respect the courts. I’m sure that justice and truth will come to light,” Netanyahu said, as he attacked the media and called into question the criminal investigations against him.
At the Tuesday rally, Netanyahu backers supported his claims of a “coup” against him and called for the arrest of Israel’s top prosecutors.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced charges against Netanyahu in three corruption cases on November 21. An hour later, the prime minister held a press conference in which he accused prosecutors of seeking to oust him from power using false corruption charges in an “attempted coup.”
Netanyahu claimed that the investigations were tainted by various improprieties, and accused law enforcement authorities of “selective enforcement” against him. He demanded to “investigate the investigators.”
Israel’s Arab citizens are descendants of Palestinians who remained in the state after its creation in 1948. Despite having citizenship, Israel’s 1.8 million or so Arabs report discrimination in areas such as housing, public services and employment.