Security has been significantly increased around Deputy State Attorney Liat Ben-Ari, the lead prosecutor in the corruption cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after threats against her escalated, a report said Sunday.
The development came days after a man was indicted on charges of threatening Ben-Ari’s underage son, and after several weeks of protests outside her home.
Channel 13 reported that the Israel Police had received intelligence that the danger had become more serious, leading to the decision to assign her security guards around the clock.
Ben-Ari will also have unspecified technologies installed at her home, the report said.
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid pointed a finger at Netanyahu, who has railed against the courts, prosecution and media for what he terms a “witchhunt.”
“Another dangerous red line crossed by the prime minister,” Lapid said. “The thought that a top prosecutor needs a security detail because of the prime minister is intolerable in a democratic country.”
Netanyahu’s trial on charges of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust opened in May in the Jerusalem District Court. He denies any wrongdoing.
The prime minister’s defenders have harshly criticized Ben-Ari and other members of the law enforcement community whom they accuse, without evidence, of attempting to unseat Netanyahu for political reasons.
Shahar Ben Yehuda, 30, from the northern city of Karmiel, was detained by police last week after refusing to voluntarily come in for questioning over profanity-laced messages he allegedly sent to Ben-Ari’s son via social media.
According to business daily Globes, Ben Yehuda admitted to sending the messages in response to a video he claimed to have seen online in which Ben-Ari’s son physically assaulted a policeman during a demonstration. The Justice Ministry said the claim was “fake news.”
Ben Yehuda also stated that he had sent the messages to scare Ben-Ari because he believed she was persecuting the country’s political right.
“Are you the son of Ben-Ari the ******,” he allegedly wrote in a message sent via Facebook, Globes reported.
While Ben Yehuda was released, he is currently banned from traveling to central Israel, contacting anyone involved in the case or using social media during the remainder of his legal saga.
In May, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who indicted Netanyahu, filed a complaint with police after receiving death threats and other harassing messages.
Among the messages sent to Mandelblit were “You and your family will die,” “You should kill yourself,” and “We’ll get to you and your kids,” as well as a photo of him in a Nazi uniform, Channels 12 and 13 reported at the time. He was also sent a clip of a coffin, the reports said.
Last week, Netanyahu’s eldest son Yair apologized to Hindus after tweeting an image of the Hindu goddess Durga, with the face of Ben-Ari superimposed over the goddess’s face. Her many arms were raised giving the middle finger.
Mandelbit’s face was superimposed over that of a tiger accompanying the goddess under a caption that said: “Know your place you despicable people.”
הצייצן הבטלן עשה עכשיו שריפה גם עם ההודים, ומתנצל. pic.twitter.com/tUeuMv5sCc
— Ben Caspit בן כספית (@BenCaspit) July 27, 2020
In July, Public Security Minister Amir Ohana called on Ben-Ari to resign over allegations that she had violated the law by splitting her home into two separate apartments without a permit.
Aides to the prime minister harshly criticized Ben-Ari in October after she went on vacation in the middle of pre-indictment legal proceedings. A source close to Netanyahu said that she had given the impression that she had already decided the outcome of the hearings and therefore did not bother attending. The Justice Ministry defended her, but a ministry source acknowledged her actions showed a lack of public sensitivity.
Sam Sokol contributed to this report.