The Knesset decided Saturday night to increase Blue and White leader Benny Gantz’s security detail due to a number of death threats made against the former IDF chief of staff following last week’s national election.
The Blue and White party said it had informed the Knesset Guard of numerous online threats made against Gantz including direct calls for physical violence against him. The decision to add two additional security guards to Gantz’s detail came after he was verbally attacked on his way to deliver a speech Saturday night.
Gantz, after accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of encouraging “hatred and division” in the public, later tweeted a photo of a Facebook status that called “to murder Gantz in Rabin Square” and wrote: “Netanyahu, stop the wild incitement. Don’t say you didn’t know.”
On Friday, after photoshopped pictures were posted on social media of Blue and White and Joint List leaders wearing Palestinian keffiyeh’s in the manner of Yasser Arafat, Gantz accused Netanyahu of inciting violence in the wake of the Knesset elections.
“The incitement to violence crosses every line. If we don’t wake up, the next political murder is around the corner,” he wrote on Facebook hours after an anti-Netanyahu protester was assaulted in a separate incident.
He linked the alleged incitement to Netanyahu’s upcoming trial on graft charges and charged that the prime minister was disregarding the results of the elections.
“Netanyahu and his people are intentionally fueling violent and extreme discourse,” Gantz said. “Netanyahu is ignoring the election results and is prepared to burn everything on his way to avoiding trial.”
“Bibi [Netanyahu], we saw what happened when the incitement runs wild and no one stopped it in 1995,” Gantz said, referring to the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Netanyahu, who was opposition leader when Rabin was shot dead by a Jewish extremist, has been accused of contributing to an incendiary political climate ahead of the murder. The premier has strongly denied this, dismissing the allegations as “attempts to distort the historical truth.”
Speaking Saturday, Gantz said he had “made a decision to form a strong and stable government” following Monday’s election and that his government would work to “heal Israel of hatred and division and allow us to move forward.”
Speaking minutes after Netanyahu, in a press statement, accused him of attempting to “steal” the national vote, Gantz said: “Again and again Israeli citizens have ruled [that] the Netanyahu era is over.”
He said the prime minister “lost [the election]. The majority of the people do not want his continued rule, and that is what the people will receive.”
Monday’s election was the third in less than a year in which Netanyahu and the parties that support him failed to win a majority in the Knesset, but in which Gantz and his supporters also lacked a clear path of forming a coalition.
Netanyahu’s Likud and the religious and ultra-Orthodox parties that support him won 58 seats in the election. Meanwhile the bloc of center-left parties and Yisrael Beytenu won 62 seats. But Blue and White and Yisrael Beytenu have said they will not form a coalition that is based on the backing of the Arab Joint List and its 15 seats.
Channel 12 news reported Saturday night that the current plan was apparently for Blue and White to form a minority government alongside Labor-Gesher-Meretz (totaling 40 of 120 Knesset seats), with outside support from Yisrael Beytenu (7) and the Joint List.
Gantz and his allies would frame such a government as an emergency government to end the political stalemate that has paralyzed Israel for nearly a year now, and one which would leave its door open to any members of Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc that wish to join.
Netanyahu, has attacked Blue and White for its purported intention to form a government based on some form of support from the Joint List, which the prime minister has characterized as “terror supporters.”