Israeli internal security warns of violence as Netanyahu is deposed

Israeli internal security warns of violence as Netanyahu is deposed


The head of the Israeli State Security Service seldom warned of possible violence on Saturday at one of the most politically charged times in decades, as the country was on the verge of ousting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, its longest-serving leader.

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The head of the Israeli State Security Service seldom warned of possible violence on Saturday at one of the most politically charged times in decades, as the country was on the verge of ousting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, its longest-serving leader.

Netanyahu is nearing the end of his twelve-year term as prime minister after Israel’s centrist opposition leader Yair Lid announced on Wednesday that he had managed to form a coalition government after the March 23 elections.

The new government, which has yet to be sworn in, is an unlikely patchwork of left, liberal, right, nationalist and religious parties and, for the first time in Israel’s history, an Arab Islamist party.

Netanyahu warned in online posts that the partnership was “a dangerous left government”.

Some right-wing groups are angry with Naftali Bennett, the head of a small ultra-nationalist party who is supposed to replace Netanyahu in a power-sharing pact with Lid, and receives many posts attacking him on social media.

Before the election, Bennett had promised that he would not join the centrist Lid or any Arab party in a coalition.

“We have recently seen an increase in increasingly extreme violent and inflammatory discourse, especially on social networks,” said Nadav Argaman, chief of the Shin Bet security forces, in an unnamed statement.

“This discourse can be interpreted by certain groups or individuals as one that permits violent and illegal activities that can even cause physical harm,” he said.

Since Bennett announced he was teaming up with Lid, security services have stepped up his protection with right-wing demonstrations near his party members’ homes in hopes of deterring them from joining the government.

Argaman called on political and religious leaders to show responsibility and curb potential incitement. His warning reminded some in Israel of the days leading up to the 1995 assassination of then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was shot by a Jewish ultra-nationalist for pursuing a country for peace with the Palestinians.

Israel’s left has been pointing the finger at Netanyahu, the opposition leader at the time, for years for participating in the incitement that preceded the attack. Netanyahu has vehemently denied the accusation and repeatedly condemned Rabin’s murder.

Lid and Bennett said they hope their “unity government” will heal deep political rifts among Israelis and end hatred. A survey by Israeli television broadcaster Meet the Press on Saturday showed that 46% of Israelis support the Bennett Lid government, 38% would prefer another election – the fifth in about two years – and 15% said no preference.

Tensions could flare up further this week if a Jewish right-wing march is expected through the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City. Last month, 11 days of intense fighting broke out between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, sparked by Israeli-Palestinian confrontations in Jerusalem, in and around the Old City. A similar march, the route of which was rerouted at the last minute, took place on the day the fighting broke out.

A scuffle broke out on Saturday in the nearby focal point of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where the possible expulsion of Palestinians by Jewish settlers played an important role in building the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas.

The Al Jazeera media network said one of its reporters, Givara Budeiri, was attacked and arrested by Israeli police while covering a protest there.

A police spokesman said Budeiri attacked officers and refused to provide identification. Footage released online showed Budeiri wearing a press vest and being led away and pushed by three or four officers. Al Jazeera also said the reporter’s camera was destroyed.

Al Jazeera said the journalist was released a few hours later and was banned from Sheikh Jarrah for 15 days.

(With contributions from agencies)

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