Yamina MK Nir Orbach on Saturday came to the defense of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s eldest son after he was briefly blocked by social media sites for publicly sharing the address of the right-wing lawmaker ahead of a protest outside his home.
Orbach has faced intense pressure to oppose the so-called “change government” that will see Yamina chief Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid Yair Lapid take turns as premier, with near-nightly protests outside his house in Petah Tikva. On Thursday night, Yair Netanyahu was temporarily banned from Twitter, Facebook and the latter’s Instagram after sharing a poster for a protest outside Orbach’s home that included his address.
“If the managers of Instagram/Twitter blocked Yair Netanyahu because they wanted to interfere on my behalf — thanks, but no thanks,” Orbach wrote on Twitter. “In Israel, everyone is allowed to demonstrate and protest and I’d be happy if it stays like that, even if the protest is directed at me.”
He added: “Even if I don’t agree with a word you say, I will fight for your right to say it.”
Yair Netanyahu was initially banned from Facebook and Instagram for sharing the poster with Orbach’s address, violating the social media giant’s rules against sharing a person’s address. He then wrote in a tweet that included an image of the poster that “Bolsheviks” banned him from posting on Facebook and Instagram for 24 hours, leading Twitter to briefly block him.
The prime minister’s Likud party condemned the ban in a series of English-language tweets titled “CENSORING THE RIGHT.”
Yair Netanyahu is no stranger to social media controversy. He has a history of posting incendiary messages, and he tweets fast and often against those he believes have wronged him and his family, leading to a slew of libel lawsuits and legal threats.
The tweet from Orbach in Yair Netanyahu’s defense came as a few hundred people protested outside the MK’s home on Saturday evening, urging him to vote down the prospective government that if sworn in will see Israel’s longest serving prime minister replaced as premier.
Calls of “leftists are traitors” were heard at the scene, according to Channel 12 news.
At one point, Orbach came out of his home to speak with some of the protesters.
“Let’s lower the flames,” he said. “There is no disengagement plan here or the Oslo disaster. There is a very complicated and difficult decision here but let’s calm down because the people of Israel are not only looking at me but also you here.”
Orbach vote is seen as crucial to the formation of the new government. Though he briefly indicated he may vote against it, he has more recently been reported to say he will either vote in favor or resign from the Knesset, allowing the next person in line, Shirley Pinto, to enter. Pinto is a clear supporter of the change government.
Another Yamina MK deemed a potential defector by Netanyahu’s Likud, Idit Silman, announced on Friday that she had made a final decision to vote in favor of the so-called “change government.”
The Bennett-Lapid coalition numbers 61 MKs in the 120-member Knesset, meaning that a single defection could prevent it from winning the parliamentary vote of confidence in needs to take power: Yesh Atid (17 seats), Blue and White (8), Yisrael Beytenu (7), Labor (7), Yamina (6 of its 7 MKs), New Hope (6), Meretz (6) and Ra’am (4).
Since the confidence vote is only likely to be held on June 14, however, and since the coalition is heading to a 61-59 majority, whereby a single defection could doom it, the potential for the picture to change cannot be discounted, in part because the various coalition agreements have not been finalized, and especially given the potential for Israel’s fast-moving political and security reality to change within days, hours or even minutes.
Lapid announced to President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday night that he and his allies had mustered a majority coalition. But the Knesset will only be formally notified to this effect on Monday, June 7. By law, the Knesset Speaker, Likud’s Yariv Levin, then has up to a week to schedule the confidence vote in the new government, and is expected to use that full period in order to give Netanyahu and his allies maximal time to try to thwart it.