A court on Tuesday extended the detention of a woman suspected of sending menacing letters and bullets to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his family.
The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court ordered that the suspect, 65, from the southern city of Ashkelon, be held for another day. She was arrested on Monday.
Police said the woman is suspected of extortion by threats, carrying or transporting weapons, threatening to commit an act of terrorism, and conspiracy to commit a crime.
Her name has been barred from publication, though reports have said she is a prominent Likud activist and vocal backer of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Walla news site reported that the gag would be lifted on Tuesday afternoon.
Ordering that she remain in police custody, Judge Erez Melamed said the investigative material demonstrated “a reasonable suspicion of the crime of making threats.”
He added that sending a threatening letter along with a bullet “may actually turn into a real act of violence.”
One of the letters included the warning: “As long as you are here we will get to you.”
However, Melamed told police that he did not accept their stance that the woman’s alleged actions could amount to terrorism. He also noted that the offense was not extortion by threats, but rather just threats.
The suspect claims she was coerced into confessing to the crimes by an investigating officer who threatened that if she didn’t do so her husband and children would be arrested, her attorney, Eli Masterman from the public defender’s office, said.
Masterman told the court his client said to the officer, “I will confess to killing Arlosoroff, just leave my family alone” — a reference to the unsolved shooting of pre-state Zionist leader Haim Arlosoroff on a Tel Aviv beach in 1933.
Police reject the suspect’s claim.
During the hearing, the court heard that the woman had in the past been questioned by police over a social media post and that she had a history of publishing acerbic criticism of Bennett. In posts to social media, she had in the past called him a “murderer,” a “traitor” and a “swindler.”
The woman is suspected of sending two letters sent last month to the premier and his family, both of which contained a live bullet.
Police said at the time that both letters contained “detailed murder threats” against the Bennetts and security officials believe whoever sent them had “gathered information” about the family.
The first threatening letter was addressed to Bennett and to his wife, Gilat, and was delivered, with a bullet, to a building adjacent to the family home, where Gilat’s office is located.
Two days later, a letter addressed to Bennett’s 15-year-old son, Yoni, also with a bullet, was sent to the family home in Ra’anana.
Both letters included a direct threat to Bennett, warning he must resign from office or his family would be “harmed.”
Bennett said at the time that political disputes shouldn’t devolve into “violence, bullying or death threats.”
“I’m the prime minister and a political figure, but I’m also a husband and father and it’s my duty to protect my wife and children,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
He urged “everybody, from across the political spectrum, and especially people who are active on social media,” to “lower the flames of political discourse.”
Police have investigated a number of threats against the prime minister in the past, usually made over social media.