Yair Netanyahu brands anti-government protesters ‘terrorists’ after salon standoff

PM’s son says demonstrators tried to ‘lynch’ his mother after protest at Tel Aviv hairdresser, later deletes tweet; senior intelligence officer says he ‘lost it completely’

Yair Netanyahu and Sara Netanyahu in the Knesset gallery as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new government is sworn in at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on December 29, 2022. (AMIR COHEN / POOL / AFP)
Yair Netanyahu and Sara Netanyahu in the Knesset gallery as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new government is sworn in at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on December 29, 2022. (AMIR COHEN / POOL / AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Yair on Thursday branded the hundreds of thousands of Israelis protesting against the government’s judicial overhaul plans “terrorists” in a since-deleted tweet posted after hundreds of demonstrators surrounded a Tel Aviv salon where his mother was getting her hair done, requiring police to extract her from the scene.

“These are not protesters. They are not anarchists either. They are terrorists! A violent underground movement has sprung up here (with billions in funding from criminals and evil people). We’re talking about domestic terrorism,” Netanyahu tweeted.

In a subsequent post on the Telegram messaging app, Netanyahu accused the protesters of trying to “lynch” his mother and said they should be arrested, tried and thrown in jail.

“The line was crossed into a violent coup tonight. In the United States, this would have ended in mass raids on the homes of those involved by the FBI,” he said.

Yair Netanyahu has a long history of incendiary comments on social media and frequently rails at those he says have wronged him or his family, leading to numerous libel lawsuits against him.

Sara Netanyahu claimed Thursday that the altercation outside her Tel Aviv salon the day before could have ended in her murder.

Police officers stand guard while people demonstrate against the prime minister’s wife Sara Netanyahu, outside a hair salon in Tel Aviv on March 1, 2023 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Some protesters have contested her assertion that she was ever in physical danger. Videos from the scene appeared to show protesters keeping their distance from the salon.

After Yair Netanyahu’s tweet began to attract media attention and public outcry on Friday, he wrote another post clarifying that his choice of the word “terrorist” was “only referring to those who acted violently between the years 2016 and 2023” — ostensibly referring to the period during which protests against his father began taking place en masse.

Protest organizers issued a statement to the media blasting the prime minister’s son.

“This is a dangerous incitement against all citizens. This country is not willing to live in a dictatorship. On Sunday, we will file a complaint for law enforcement to investigate and prosecute this inciter,” the protest leaders said.

Also Friday, a former senior officer in Unit 8200, a top IDF intelligence unit, tore into Yair Netanyahu during an interview with Channel 12. The colonel, who can only be identified as A. due to his military status, told the network that the premier’s son had “lost it completely” in branding the protesters as “terrorists.”

“To call me — us — anarchists and terrorists?! I gave 26 years to the IDF. My friends are still serving. Does he have no shame? Not even a little? You need to know when to shut your mouth. Us, terrorists? I suggest he go back to the dictionary and look up the definitions of ‘anarchist’ and ‘terrorist’ before using such terms to describe the salt of the earth,” he said.

The incident at the Tel Aviv hair salon occurred as the prime minister gave a statement to the nation in which he compared the anti-government protesters to settlers who rampaged through a Palestinian town earlier in the week. On Thursday, he tried to downplay the comparison.

Wednesday’s protests coincided with a meeting of the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee, which approved for its first reading in the Knesset plenum a government-backed bill to radically restrict the High Court of Justice’s ability to strike down legislation.

The bill is one of several controversial measures being pushed through the Knesset by the government, which most experts say will cause fundamental harm to Israel’s democratic system of governance by concentrating power with the ruling coalition and removing the court’s ability to act as a check. Supporters of the plan say it will fix a situation in which an unelected judiciary has undermined the will of elected politicians.

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