The wife of New Hope MK Ze’ev Elkin has filed a police complaint against supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who verbally attacked her outside the family’s Jerusalem home.
Videos posted to Twitter Monday showed a group of Likud activists cursing and 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,” screamed one Netanyahu supporter, later identified as Rami Ben-Yehuda.
“Your husband has betrayed Israel. You have betrayed Israel,” Ben-Yehuda continued, later adding that she “goes with Arabs” and “collaborates with Al Jazeera,” in reference to the international Arabic news channel. He also called her a “Russian traitor.”
Ze’ev Elkin, a former Likud cabinet minister who was considered a close confidant of Netanyahu, left to join the New Hope party ahead of the March 2021 elections, blasting the prime minister for his conduct and accusing him of putting his personal considerations above the country best interests.
בינתיים שוב אלימות מחוץ לביתו של זאב אלקין וקריאות בוגדת כלפי אשתו. נאלץ לעזוב עכשיו את הכנסת ולסייע לאשתו ובנו.
לפני כמה ימים כתב שאלה הדברים שמחזקים אותו בדעתו להוביל לשינוי. pic.twitter.com/F7kENCOyxz
— דפנה ליאל (@DaphnaLiel) April 19, 2021
Maria retorted to the protesters: “You don’t need to come to me. Go to my husband, he’s in the Knesset. It’s just me and the kids here. Because of you, my children cry at night.”
On Tuesday, Maria described the event in more detail to the Walla news site, recounting how she’d come home Monday evening after dropping her son off at soccer practice to find the group outside her home. They began to verbally abuse her, calling her “a stinking Russian” and “a disgusting gentile, an evil woman, psychotic woman, greedy.”
“My children were crying in the living room, afraid,” she said. “I don’t even have the words; this is not a legitimate tool, this is not a protest. You can’t take a family hostage.”
She later told Channel 12 that the episode last more than an hour. “There was nothing political about it,” she said. “It was pure thuggery.”
טוב, התחלנו. להרחיק ילדים, לקחת גלולות נגד הקאה ולחזות בהשתוללות של האיש שנושא את השם בן-יהודה. מחייה הקללה העברית, אלוף הגידוף, זנב תולע מחליא. המקוללת היא רעייתו של זאב אלקין. pic.twitter.com/psCFDX88TD
— Ben Caspit בן כספית (@BenCaspit) April 19, 2021
Yesh Atid party chief Yair Lapid tweeted after the event: “The ugly verbal violence aimed against the family members of my friend Ze’ev Elkin is the lowest form of the politics of hatred and division. This is exactly what we need to change. This is exactly what an Israeli unity government can change.”
Likud’s faction chief, MK Miki Zohar, also responded to the incident on Twitter Tuesday, writing: “I too have experienced quite a few demonstrations outside my home, and I have one clear conclusion from this: Family and children are off-limits. Period.”
Zohar’s comment was the first from a Likud member about the verbal assault.
Ben-Yehuda, who in the video could be seen becoming increasingly aggressive and violent, told Maariv on Tuesday that he “does not apologize, quite the opposite.” He accused Maria of being “in a frenzy” and claimed she tried to run over the protesters.
He also said the protest came at the initiative of those present, in an apparent attempt to distance the demonstration from Netanyahu.
Ben-Yehuda was party to a similar incident outside Elkin’s house a week ago, where he screamed at their 5-year-old daughter, according to Maria.
Likud supporters have been regularly gathering outside the Elkins’ residence to demonstrate against the Knesset member, as Netanyahu’s prospects of forming a right-wing government have become increasingly dim.
“We will not forgive you, if you do not come and form a fully-fledged right-wing government — every day the police will have to guard you here. Every evening you will draw the blinds, you will not be able to leave the house,” one of the demonstrators threatened the family last week, according to Walla.
After that incident, Ze’ev Elkin tweeted, “For the information of the group of lunatics who came tonight to demonstrate near my house on behalf of Netanyahu, who frightened my five-year-old girl, shouted at her that her father was a leftist and a criminal and demanded that my wife go out to meet them: Thank you for the reminder, Mr. Prime Minister, of what the culture of discourse looks like, that you ask me to return to.
“Thank you for the additional encouragement to work towards a change in government.”
Last week, Netanyahu tried to court long-time political rival Gideon Sa’ar to join his government, though Sa’ar, who broke away from Likud to establish the right-wing New Hope party ahead of March’s election, remains opposed.
Netanyahu has so far been unsuccessful in securing a coalition, an increasingly difficult task requiring the backing of the Islamist party Ra’am, the approval of far-right Religious Zionism, and the inclusion of Naftali Bennet’s party, Yamina.
And on Monday, the Likud party suffered a stinging surprise defeat in a Knesset vote on forming a key committee after Ra’am sided with the opposition. Likud’s Zohar has said that the party now realizes that it will be heading into the opposition rather than heading a coalition.
When he left Likud in December, Elkin accused Netanyahu of “destroying” Likud, claimed many in the party quietly agreed with him, and said he could no longer tell Israelis to “support someone that I’ve stopped believing in.”
Elkin castigated Netanyahu for dragging Israel into four consecutive early elections. And he recalled what he said were his personal pleas to Netanyahu to avoid Israel’s most recent election in March.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.