The grandson of late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin on Tuesday publicly wished that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would catch the coronavirus and live out his days in jail, raising right-wing ire before apologizing.
Yonatan Ben Artzi was criticizing Netanyahu after negotiations for an emergency unity government between his Likud party and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White hit a snag, with Gantz saying that after understandings had been reached on many issues, Likud sought to reopen the highly charged matter of judicial appointments.
Some analysts said it was a ploy designed to hinder the negotiations, sending the country to fourth successive elections with Gantz severely weakened after he lost the support of his former allies over his willingness to serve under Netanyahu.
“If Netanyahu lied to the Israeli nation and in fact only pulled a trick by saying ‘we need an emergency unity coronavirus government’ and actually meaning elections, then he deserves [to catch] coronavirus and live out the rest of his days sick in prison,” Ben Artzi tweeted, adding that it would be “karma.”
The remark drew a torrent of criticism on social media and elsewhere.
Likud responded in a statement, claiming Ben Artzi was “inciting the prime minister’s death.”
“Even when the prime minister is saving the lives of Israeli citizens, the hate knows no limit,” it added. “Do you think anyone will open an investigation against him?”
Ben Artzi refused to apologize in an initial follow-up tweet, writing that “whoever uses human illness like the coronavirus for politics, deserves coronavirus. That is disregard and mockery for human lives.”
However, he later deleted his original post and wrote a new one: “I don’t wish for anyone to get sick with coronavirus, including Netanyahu. Apologies for that.”
In November Ben Artzi clashed with Netanyahu after calling on him to resign in a speech at an annual memorial ceremony for his grandfather. Rabin’s family and much of Israel’s left have consistently blamed Netanyahu for his death, saying he incited the prime minister’s 1995 murder in the months leading up to it. Netanyahu, who was elected prime minister some six months later, has rejected the accusation.
Blue and White on Monday said it was breaking off coalition talks with Likud over the latter’s efforts to walk back the agreement regarding judicial appointments, after previously indicating that a deal on an emergency unity government was done.
“After reaching understandings on all issues, the Likud party asked to reopen discussions regarding the committee to appoint judges. In light of this, negotiations have been halted. We will not allow any change in the functioning of the judiciary nor damage to democracy,” Blue and White said in a statement.
The reported agreements in coalition talks came after Netanyahu and Gantz met at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem for several hours, with their parties claiming progress toward forming a new government.
The negotiations on forming a government, which would see Netanyahu and Gantz switch off as prime minister, have gathered pace since the Blue and White leader was elected Knesset speaker on March 26. The move signaled Gantz’s readiness to partner Netanyahu in a breach of his and his Blue and White party’s campaign promises, and led to the collapse of his centrist alliance and a breach with former allies Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) and Moshe Ya’alon (Telem).