Police: Netanyahu was not in any danger during Tues. protests

Shin Bet chief on Jerusalem clashes: Violent protests could lead to ‘dangerous places’

Ronen Bar slammed by right-wing ministers for lax security around Netanyahu, as rioting at demonstration draws cold response even from some government opponents

Israeli Police remove a protestor who was holding onto the bottom of one of their vehicles on Azza Street near the private residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Jerusalem, April 2, 2024 (@barakdor/Israeli Pro-Democracy Protest Movement)

Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar on Wednesday issued a warning to protesters after an attempted breach of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence by a large group of people during an anti-government demonstration in Jerusalem the previous night.

“The violent discourse online and some of the scenes we saw tonight in Jerusalem go beyond acceptable protest, harm the ability to maintain public order, could lead to violent clashes with law enforcement, disrupt their ability to carry out their work and even cause harm to individuals under protection,” said Bar.

“There is a clear line between legitimate protest and violent and illegal protest. This is a worrying trend that could lead to dangerous places which we must not come to,” he added.

Tuesday night’s demonstration, which began at the Knesset and ended near Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem’s upscale Rehavia neighborhood, descended into what police described as an “unbridled riot” when demonstrators closed in on the premier’s home. Officers and demonstrators were treated for injuries sustained throughout the night, including one officer at whom a protester had lobbed a burning torch.

The police issued a statement Wednesday stating that the prime minister and his family were not in any danger during the protests.

Channel 12 news reported that Netanyahu was at home at the time.

File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar, at a pre-Passover toast on April 4, 2023. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Bar has twice in recent days been seen in the area of Netanyahu’s home, checking security arrangements, including on Tuesday night.

Tuesday was the third in a four-day protest featuring a hundreds-strong encampment around the Knesset building. Some relatives of hostages held in Gaza have joined and spearheaded the anti-government protest, claiming political incentive was causing Netanyahu to delay the return of their loved ones, and demanding immediate elections to unseat the premier.

Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana said at the Knesset that Tuesday’s events “join the rising incitement that characterized the days prior to October 7.” He called on police “to take action to thwart the danger before we come to bloodshed, God forbid.”

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who has recently found himself at loggerheads with the premier, said on X that he “strongly condemn[s] the violent actions against the prime minister… disrupting the work of policemen and Shin Bet officials at this time endangers our security and even more so our unity, which is critical to our existence.”

As the Tuesday protest drew to a close, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir took to X to accuse Shin Bet chief Bar of “disregarding the prime minister’s security.” The far-right minister, who is in charge of law enforcement, demanded “the Shin Bet wake up immediately and take the safety of Israel’s prime minister and his family seriously.”

“A situation where thousands of people breach the prime minister’s residence complex, and the Shin Bet turns a blind eye, is unacceptable,” wrote Ben Gvir.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, another far-right Netanyahu ally, bemoaned on X the “anarchists’ violence in Jerusalem,” which he called “sights of October 6,” referring to the period of intense public unrest that preceded the Hamas attack of October 7.

Without directly referencing Tuesday night’s events, protest group Brothers and Sisters in Arms wrote on X that “the protest on our part will continue to be nonviolent, and will respect security forces, who are our brothers and sisters.”

An activist is dragged from a playground by police during an anti-government protest outside the Prime Minister’s home in Jerusalem on April 2, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

War cabinet member Benny Gantz also chided the protesters, writing on X that “we cannot accept people ignoring police instructions and breaking through barriers as we saw last night in Jerusalem.”

“Protest is legitimate, the pain is understandable, but the law and rules must be upheld,” wrote the former defense minister, who is widely seen as Netanyahu’s foremost challenger for the premiership.

“We mustn’t return to October 6,” added Gantz.

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid did not immediately issue a statement about the chaos at Tuesday’s protest, though MK Elazar Stern, a member of Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, wrote on X that he “cannot accept the breach of the premier’s residence’s security perimeter, tossing torches at policemen, and violent behavior of part of the protesters.”

“Undoubtedly,” added Stern, such behavior imperils “their goals — our goals.”

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