A prominent Likud activist on Saturday was filmed physically assaulting protesters demonstrating against opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu on a highway overpass outside Jerusalem, prompting his suspension from the party.
Rami Ben-Yehuda, who is on Likud’s payroll amid their election campaign, was seen punching a former Israel Defense Forces colonel, as well as striking another protester over the head with a megaphone.
Protesters had gathered at some 150 locations across the country on Saturday, holding signs with slogans against Netanyahu’s potential return to power after Israel’s upcoming elections, to be held on November 1.
In videos widely shared on social media, Ben-Yehuda can be seen in a heated argument with Rami Matan, the retired colonel.
Recounting the incident, Matan said, “Rami Ben-Yehuda arrived at our bridge with a megaphone and began to shout ‘terrorists, Germans, leftist traitors.'”
“We were 60-70 people and I was next to him, he began to riot and go wild. At one point we approached him again, and I went towards him and he hit me on the left side of my head,” Matan told Channel 12 news.
כלב התקיפה המועסק בקמפיין ארגון הפשיעה @Likud_Party תוקף מפגין בגשר חמד.
— Yoav Glasner (@Yoglas74) September 24, 2022
Ben-Yehuda could also be seen hitting a protester over the head with a megaphone and placing his hands on the neck of another, shoving the man backward. Another video showed police separating Ben-Yehuda from the crowd, as both sides traded insults.
“We do not accept violence from our people. The activist has been suspended until the case has been clarified,” Likud said in a statement.
— אור רביד | Or Ravid (@OrRavid) September 24, 2022
Yesh Atid, the party of Prime Minister Yair Lapid, labeled Ben-Yehuda a central component of Netanyahu’s “poison machine.”
“Today it’s a punch, tomorrow blood will be spilled,” Yesh Atid added.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz, while not naming Netanyahu, said the former prime minister was “not worthy” to lead the country.
“The one who seeks to return to be prime minister and ignores systemic violence used week after week by activists on his behalf, proves that he is not worthy to be a public leader,” Gantz said.
Labor leader Merav Michaeli labeled Ben-Yehuda “Netanyahu’s bully,” saying he attacked protesters “fighting for democracy.”
Ben-Yehuda is known for his attack-dog tactics against political rivals and opponents of the party.
Last year, Ben-Yehuda was placed under a restraining order for verbally abusing the wife of New Hope MK Ze’ev Elkin, calling her a “Russian traitor” after her husband defected from the Likud party.