ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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‘Same fate as Eichmann’: Tel Aviv police chief’s security raised after death threats

Amichai Eshed faces highest danger level, is provided with armed guards; online antagonists liken him to Nazis, call to put him on trial and sentence him to death

Tel Aviv District Police Commander Amichai Eshed in Tel Aviv, April 7, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Tel Aviv District Police Commander Amichai Eshed in Tel Aviv, April 7, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Security has been bolstered for police’s Tel Aviv District Commander Amichai Eshed after death threats against him, apparently from far-right activists, Hebrew media reported Tuesday.

Eshed has faced a deluge of threats and incitement that has led officials to assess the danger to him as level six, the highest possible, according to Ynet, which first reported on the development.

The outlet published a video showing Eshed leaving his home in Kfar Saba escorted by a pair of officers from the police’s special patrol unit.

Among the reported remarks posted on social media was one that described Eshed as “a neo-Nazi for all intents and purposes” and said his “fate will like that of [Adolf] Eichmann,” the top Nazi who was put on trial in Israel for crimes against humanity and other crimes, sentenced to death and hanged.

Another user, claiming to be the grandchild of Holocaust survivors, said Eshed is “just like the Aryan race.”

Others called to put Eshed on trial for “rebellion,” or labeled him “one of the greatest and most dangerous criminals in Israel,” accusing him of “giving a permit to block roads.”

The Israel Police confirmed the nature of the threats.

Protesters against the government’s planned drastic overhaul of the judiciary have blocked major highways as part of their strategy of civil disobedience against the scheme. Tel Aviv has seen the largest of the protests with the police response in Eshed’s hands. Pro-government supporters and far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir have called for police to take a firm hand in dispersing the protesters.

Eshed has been seen as taking a relatively soft approach toward anti-overhaul demonstrators, making him popular among protesters and earning him scorn from overhaul backers.

Ben Gvir announced last month that at Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai’s recommendation, he was transferring Eshed to a new position, after slamming his handling of the mass protests against the government’s judicial overhaul push. The move was swiftly frozen by Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, who raised concerns it was politically motivated.

Baharav-Miara said Monday that the government must reexamine the decision on his fate, concluding that the recent decision to remove him faced significant legal difficulties.

Both Shabtai and Ben Gvir have insisted Eshed’s removal had been planned in advance. But Ben Gvir also said his decision to make the move now was tied to the commander’s handling of the protests in Tel Aviv, where police have largely shown patience with demonstrators, even when they block roads and the major Ayalon Highway.

Shabtai approved Eshed’s demotion, apparently in light of longstanding tensions with the top officer, but later admitted that taking the step at the current time had been an error.

Israel has been rocked by mass demonstrations since early January, when the government unveiled its far-reaching plans to neuter the judicial system. Protesters have warned the proposals will weaken Israel’s democratic character, remove a key element of its checks and balances and leave minorities unprotected. Supporters claim it is a much-needed reform to rein in an overly activist court.

President Isaac Herzog is currently hosting talks between the coalition and the opposition’s Yesh Atid and National Unity parties in an effort to reach agreement on judicial reform, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was pausing the overhaul legislation.

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