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Sender had 'gathered information' on PM's family - TV report

Letter with bullet and death threats sent to PM Bennett and family; security boosted

Threatening message with round of live ammunition delivered to family in Ra’anana Tuesday morning; PM hints threat motivated by politics

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his wife Gilat attend a ceremony on the second night of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, at the Nativ program on the Kiryat Moriah campus in Jerusalem, November 29, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his wife Gilat attend a ceremony on the second night of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, at the Nativ program on the Kiryat Moriah campus in Jerusalem, November 29, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

A letter addressed to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his family included death threats and a live bullet, police said Tuesday afternoon.

Security officials in the Prime Minister’s Office immediately decided to reinforce the unit responsible for protecting Bennett’s family, the Prime Minister’s Office said.

According to a police statement, the Lahav 433 serious crime unit and the Shin Bet security agency launched a joint investigation into the threatening letter.

The letter was sent to a building adjacent to Bennett’s family home in Ra’anana, which he is using rather than the official Prime Minister’s Residence, and was addressed to both the prime minister and his family, Channel 12 news reported. It later specified that the letter was delivered to the office where Bennett’s wife Gilat works.

The letter, which reportedly arrived on Tuesday morning, contained “detailed murder threats” to the prime minister and his family, the TV report said. Quoting sources close to the investigation, it said whoever sent it had “gathered information” regarding the family, and that this was a factor in the immediate raising of security around the Bennetts.

A court-imposed gag order has prohibited many details of the case from being published.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, his wife Gilat and their four children at the Knesset, on June 13, 2021. (Naftali Bennett/Instagram)

The Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that security for Bennett’s family was increased following assessments by officials.

Without citing a source, Channel 12 said the letter was not considered to represent “genuine danger” to the Bennett family, but added that “nobody is taking any chances.”

Police did not announce a motive for the letter, but Bennett hinted it was political in nature, saying on Twitter that such disputes shouldn’t rise to the level of “violence, bullying or death threats.”

“I’m the prime minister and a political figure, but I’m also a husband and father and it’s my duty to protect my wife and children,” Bennett wrote. He urged “everybody, from across the political spectrum, and especially people who are active on social media” to “lower the flames of political discourse.” This period ahead of the remembrance days and Independence Day,  he said, “is the time for calming and reconciliation.”

Bennett’s coalition partners, including Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, denounced the threatening letter and bullet that was sent to the premier’s family.

Lapid said the letter showed “where hatred can lead.”

“We’ll continue to fight the discourse of hate in the street, on social media, everywhere. They won’t intimate us. The extremists won’t defeat the sane majority,” he said on Twitter.

Gantz said the threats were “the crossing of a red line,” adding that “a bullet in an envelope can turn into three bullets fired from a pistol” — in reference to the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin by a right-wing extremist in 1995.

By contrast, Religious Zionism party leader Bezalel Smotrich, a bitter rival of Bennett’s, questioned whether the incident was a case of “spin to boost Bennett’s [political] standing.”

One of three metal walls closing streets leading to the Prime Minister’s Ra’anana home, on January 13, 2022. (Carrie Keller-Lynn/Times of Israel)

Police have investigated a number of threats against the prime minister in the past, usually made over social media.

In August, a 23-year-old resident of Ashkelon was detained over an alleged threatening Facebook comment on a post from Bennett expressing condolences to the family of Barel Hadaria Shmueli, a Border Police officer who died after being shot on the Gaza border during violent protests nine days earlier.

Earlier that month, another resident of the south was detained for questioning over apparent threats against the prime minister. 

In May, before he became prime minister, the Knesset Guard boosted security for Bennett and his home after a series of threats amid feverish coalition talks and a heated political atmosphere.

Later that month, police investigated threats made against Bennett on social media, including images circulating of him wearing an Arab headdress with the caption “the liar” — similar to those shared of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin before his assassination.

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