A vocal, foul-mouthed Likud operative known for his attack-dog tactics against political rivals and opponents of the party, and especially its leader, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was recently praised by senior party members at a prominent event near Jerusalem.
At an event last week in Mevasseret Zion, Rami Ben-Yehuda — a Likud activist who has called some non-Likud right-wing lawmakers “traitors” who should be executed, used a homophobic slur against the country’s first openly gay government minister, and was previously subject to a restraining order for verbal harassment — won the praise of senior Likud lawmaker Miri Regev, who hailed his work.
Speaking on stage at the event, which the report said he had organized, Regev said Ben-Yehuda has been at protests in “Tel Aviv, in Ra’anana, in Caesarea, and everywhere… [where he] comes and says what needs to be said.”
“Way to go,” she told a smiling Ben-Yehuda from the stage.
Likud MK Shlomo Karhi said he has “no words” with which to praise Ben-Yehuda, followed by chants of “Rami” from the crowd.
At the event, filmed by Channel 12 and aired Sunday, Ben-Yehuda can be seen embracing the Likud’s Israel Katz and Amir Ohana, a former justice minister and Israel’s first openly gay minister. Ben-Yehuda previously called Ohana a “f*g from north Tel Aviv” in a clip filmed outside his home, and asked if “Mansour Abbas [head of the Islamist Ra’am party] does you from the behind or from the front?”
Ohana, once a close Netanyahu ally, reportedly ran afoul of the Likud leader late last year.
At last week’s event, Ohana shook Ben-Yehuda’s hand and later, in a speech on stage, called him a “heartfelt player,” a term that won him a thumbs up from the activist.
Ben-Yehuda has been a fixture at Likud events and has taken part in a number of protests this past year against lawmakers from the government coalition headed initially by Naftali Bennett, the ex-leader of the right-wing Yamina party, who is now serving as alternate prime minister in a power-sharing agreement with Yair Lapid, the country’s current premier.
Israelis are set to vote on November 1 in the fifth national elections since 2019, following the disintegration last month of Bennett’s unlikely alliance of right, center, left and Islamist parties just a year into its formation last June. The coalition was hobbled at the end by the vocal departures of key lawmakers from the Yamina party, following often concerted pressure campaigns by the Likud to deprive the coalition of its thin parliamentary majority.
Bullhorn in hand, Ben-Yehuda was often at right-wing protests using profanity and vulgar, offensive turns of phrase to decry perceived “traitors” who denied Netanyahu the chance to form a coalition instead of Bennett.
He’s also verbally harassed a host of lawmakers, accosting them on the street or outside their homes.
Ben-Yehuda proudly filmed and posted these utterances on social media for Likud followers and fans of the party and Netanyahu.
He has called Yamina’s Ayelet Shaked an “escort for the Palestinians,” and suggested she was a traitor who should be executed; he described Nir Orbach, also of Yamina, as a “dog” and yelled at him to “take off the kippa… shove it up your a**” at another protest.
In one clip aired by Channel 12, he is heard attacking a lawmaker — it is unclear who — calling him a “trash bag who is masquerading as a man of the right [wing]… [go] to the gas chambers.”
Before her resignation from the coalition in April, Ben-Yehuda called former whip Idit Silman (Yamina) a “deplorable traitor” and a “doormat for the Muslim Brotherhood,” a reference to the inclusion of Islamist party Ra’am in the doomed coalition.
In December, Ben-Yehuda accosted Benny Begin, the son of iconic Likud founder Menachem Begin, as a “crazy old man who is betraying his father’s legacy.”
Benny Begin, formerly of the Likud, had joined Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party ahead of the March 2021 elections. New Hope is largely composed of former Likud members who had fallen out with Netanyahu.
A number of Likud members denounced the harassment against Begin at the time, but Netanyahu remained silent.
Last April, the Jerusalem District Court issued a temporary restraining order against Ben-Yehuda for verbally harassing the wife and kids of Ze’ev Elkin, a right-wing lawmaker who also left the Likud to join New Hope.
In a video he posted to Twitter, Ben-Yehuda is heard screaming at Elkin’s wife, Maria, as she stood by herself outside her home. “You’re a lunatic, you’re a liar, you’re a traitor,” he said, adding that her husband “has betrayed Israel.”
He also shouted that she “goes with Arabs” and “collaborates with Al Jazeera,” in reference to the international Arabic news channel, and called her a “Russian traitor.”