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Netanyahu condemns letter, links it to threats against him

Supreme Court justice receives threat; ‘incitement’ blamed

Statement says letter with unspecified ‘despicable’ content was sent to Judge Anat Baron, links matter to attacks on justice system by Netanyahu and his allies

Supreme Court Justice Anat Baron (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Supreme Court Justice Anat Baron (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

The judiciary on Sunday linked a threatening letter against a Supreme Court judge to “continuous unbridled incitement” against the courts in a firm, thinly veiled criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies.

In a statement, a judiciary spokesperson said the body in charge of securing the courts had filed a police complaint after the threat was made to Justice Anat Baron, a liberal-leaning judge who supported many rulings that have angered Netanyahu’s right-wing base.

The judiciary later issued a second, strongly worded statement.

“The threatening letter sent to Supreme Court Justice Anat Baron, including its despicable content, is the direct result of continuous unbridled incitement against the justice system and its judges,” the statement said.

“Attempts to terrorize Israel’s judges will not deter them, and they will continue to do their job without fear,” it added.

There were no immediate details on the content of the letter sent to Baron.

Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn said: “The continued assault on the justice system is dangerous…. There are judges in Jerusalem and they will continue to do their job fearlessly.”

MK Yair Lapid speaks during a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling on him to quit, at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on April 19, 2020. (Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Opposition Chief Yair Lapid blamed the prime minister: “The threat to the Supreme Court justice is a direct result of the incitement coming from Netanyahu. This is on him.”

Netanyahu also condemned the threats against the judge, while linking them to cases in which social media users said the premier should be killed.

“There should be zero tolerance toward anyone who threatens to murder judges and elected officials alike,” Netanyahu said at the opening of Sunday’s cabinet meeting.

“This month alone I have filed three police complaints over murder threats against me and my family,” he said. “I call on police to act quickly and forcefully to eradicate the phenomenon of incitement — it has no place among us.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement before entering a courtroom at the Jerusalem District Court on May 24, 2020, for the start of his corruption trial. Among those alongside him from left are Likud MKs and ministers Gadi Yevarkan, Amir Ohana, Miri Regev, Nir Barkat, Israel Katz, Tzachi Hanegbi, Yoav Gallant and David Amsalem (Yonathan SINDEL / POOL / AFP)

Last month, Channel 13 reported that court officials and police had decided to beef up security for the judges presiding over Netanyahu’s criminal trial, which began May 24.

Netanyahu, who is charged with corruption in three cases, has repeatedly alleged that the courts, police, his political rivals, the media and state prosecutors had all conspired to frame him for crimes he didn’t commit.

Nissenkorn, of the centrist Blue and White party, on Saturday vowed to prevent harm to the judiciary, issuing veiled criticism of Netanyahu and his allies who have assailed the justice system over his trial and vowed to enact far-reaching reforms.

In an interview with Channel 12, Nissenkorn said: “Our job as public servants is also to fix [the system], of course, but also to ensure that government apparatuses are defended and respected.”

Avi Nissenkorn of the Blue and White Party attends an election campaign event in Shefayim, on July 14, 2019. Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Nissenkorn rejected widespread promises by right-wing lawmakers to legislate an override clause that would remove the High Court of Justice’s ability to strike down Knesset laws. Last week the court struck down a law that legalized wildcat settlements in the West Bank.

“There will be no court-bypassing law as long as I’m justice minister,” he said.

Immediately prior to the start of his trial last month, Netanyahu ripped into police and prosecutors, insinuating a broad conspiracy to bring him down and declaring that all his right-wing supporters were on trial along with him.

“Elements in the police and State Attorney’s Office banded together with left-wing journalists… to fabricate baseless cases against me,” he charged. “The goal is to oust a strong right-wing prime minister and to banish the right-wing camp from leadership of the country for many years.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the courtroom at the Jerusalem District Court at the start of his trial, May 24, 2020. (Amit Shabi/Pool)

Netanyahu faces charges in three criminal cases: fraud and breach of trust in Cases 1000 and 2000, and bribery, fraud and breach of trust in Case 4000.

Case 1000 involves accusations that Netanyahu received gifts and benefits from billionaire benefactors including Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan in exchange for favors.

Case 2000 involves accusations that Netanyahu agreed with Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes to weaken a rival daily in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

Case 4000, widely seen as the most serious against the premier, involves accusations that Netanyahu advanced regulatory decisions that benefited Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in the Bezeq telecom giant, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, in exchange for positive coverage from its Walla news site.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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