The Shin Bet security service on Tuesday took over responsibility for guarding Blue and White party leader MK Benny Gantz in the wake of threats against him online.
Due to something of a technicality, Gantz had not received a security detail from the agency, but was instead protected by the Knesset’s own guards.
The security service provides body guards to so-called symbols of the state, including the prime minister, defense minister, foreign minister, chairman of the Knesset and the head of the opposition, a position that Gantz has effectively held for nearly the past year.
However, as a government was never formed following the April 2019 elections, an opposition was also never technically created.
In recent weeks, the Blue and White party leader — who is vying for the position of prime minister — has received a number of online threats against him, prompting the Knesset’s internal security service to increase his security detail on Saturday.
On Sunday, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and interim Israel Police commissioner Motti Cohen said that law enforcers have a zero-tolerance policy toward threats or incitement to violence.
In their statement, Mandelbit and Cohen said they were “committed to working with law enforcement agencies to bring about prompt, effective and determined treatment of statements that raise suspicions of criminal offenses of threats or incitement to violence.”
While preserving the right to freedom of speech, “it is clear that expressions that include threats or incitement to violence, or physical violence, will not be tolerated,” they wrote.
“In accordance with the law enforcement policy applicable to such serious cases, they will be reviewed and dealt with in a thorough and professional manner.”
The Blue and White party on Saturday said it had informed the Knesset Guard of numerous online threats made against Gantz including direct calls for physical violence. 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 sowing “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 keffiyehs in the manner of Yasser Arafat, Gantz accused Netanyahu of inciting violence in the wake of the Knesset vote.
“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.