Protests for and against the formation of a government composed of rivals of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intensified outside the Kfar Maccabiah hotel in Ramat Gan on Wednesday evening, where party negotiators were rushing to finalize agreements ahead of a midnight deadline.
Hundreds gathered at the site for dueling rallies, as the negotiations came down to the wire in a last-ditch effort to establish a government after four rounds of elections since April 2019. The so-called change bloc parties led by Yesh Atid’s Lapid were hoping to overcome their major ideological gaps by a Wednesday night deadline, ending Israel’s protracted political deadlock and ousting Netanyahu, the country’s longest-serving leader, from power.
In one exchange reported by Channel 12 at the rally, a female protester in favor of the proposed government called out to a female right-wing protester across the street, “Nazi.”
The pro-Netanyahu protester shouted back, with a microphone, “Go to Gaza. Leftist traitors. We’ll execute you in the town square! You sons of Arafat,” before another demonstrator grabbed the microphone away from her.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) June 2, 2021
The emerging coalition has angered right-wing activists as it could put an end to 12 consecutive years of Netanyahu’s rule.
The demonstrators against the brewing government have been particularly intense in recent days, taking place outside the homes of prospective ministers, including Yamina’s Ayelet Shaked and Meretz’s Tamar Zandberg. The hecklers have included pro-Netanyahu activists, the right-wing families of terror victims and young members of the national-religious camp.
As the threats against participants have become more intense, Likud MK Miki Zohar on Tuesday said there was “no place” for violence against any politicians.
“Criticism and political protests — yes. Violence and threats against lawmakers and their families — no way,” tweeted Zohar, a Netanyahu loyalist. “There is no place for violent discourse and certainly not for threats against elected officials and their families on the right and left, religious and secular.”
Yamina MK Matan Kahana, whose right-wing Yamina party will be co-heading the prospective coalition replacing Netanyahu, on Tuesday urged rabbis who have called on followers to do “everything” they can to prevent the emerging “change government” to make a second plea — clarifying that they must not descend into violence.
Kahana told the Kan public broadcaster Tuesday that the demonstrations outside Yamina members’ homes amid the coalition negotiations “are worse” than any of them “could have imagined.”
On Monday the Knesset Guard reportedly increased security around Shaked due to threats she received. Security around Yamina leader Naftali Bennett was already increased earlier this month in response to threats against his life, the party said at the time.
Earlier Tuesday, Meretz MK Zandberg took her family out of their home following a string of threats against her and her baby daughter, in the wake of false information published about her proposed legislation to restrict the proselytizing of minors.
Also Tuesday, the Yisrael Beytenu party, which is part of the “change bloc” of anti-Netanyahu parties, said it had received a number of threatening calls in the past few hours. The party said some of the calls included “harsh threats of murder” toward staff at the right-wing secularist party’s headquarters and against its leader, Avigdor Liberman.
Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz lamented Monday that threats against Yamina party leaders over their intention to join forces with him and others in forming a government have shown that the country has not learned the lessons from the 1995 assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin by a right-wing extremist.