Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday vowed to “overthrow” the coalition poised to replace his government, as he teeters on the brink of being ousted from his role as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.
he threat came a day after the head of the domestic security services warned that the heated political discourse could spark physical violence.
“Recently we have identified a grave increase and intensification in violent and inciting discourse, particularly on social media,” Nadav Argaman, head of Shin Bet, said on Saturday. “This discourse includes grave statements, using strong, hateful language, and even calls for physical attacks.”
“As someone who leads an organisation meant to protect the nation’s security, democratic regime and institutions, I am (warning)] that this discourse may be interpreted by certain groups or lone wolves as permission for violence and illegal activity that could lead to physical harm.” Mr Argaman did not name individuals in his warning.
Israel’s fractious politics have caused a years-long political crisis, with four inconclusive elections held in the past two and a half years. Now, a patchwork coalition formed of left, centre, right, religious, nationalist, and, for the first time, an Arab Islamist party, has come together to oust Mr Netanyhau.
As the leader tries to keep power, he has attacked what he says will be a “dangerous left-wing government”.
Yesterday, he vowed to work to bring down the new government as soon as it was sworn in. “We will strongly oppose the formation of this dangerous government of fraud and surrender, and if, God forbid, it is established – we will overthrow it very quickly,” he said.
He added that the “obligation to calm tensions and to restrain the discourse” fell on the shoulders of the politicians and religious leaders.
Supporters and members of the “change government” have faced protests and intense threats in the week since the coalition was announced.
Mr Netanyahu focused his allegations on a broken campaign promise from the man set to replace him as prime minister, nationalist Naftali Bennett.
Mr Bennett had pledged not to partner with left-wing, centrist and Arab parties, but last Wednesday announced with opposition leader Yair Lapid that they had formed a governing coalition with factions from across the political spectrum.
Under a rotation deal, Mr Bennett will serve first as prime minister, followed by Mr Lapid.
No date has been set for a vote in parliament to approve the new government, which follows an inconclusive March 23 election, but it is widely expected to be sworn in on June 14.
“We are witnessing the greatest election fraud in the history of the country, in my opinion in the history of any democracy,” Mr Netanyahu said to legislators of his right-wing Likud party.
“That’s why people justifiably feel deceived and they are responding, they must not be shut up,” he said in the remarks, which were broadcast live and referred indirectly to Mr Bennett’s campaign promise not to team up with Mr Lapid and others.
Mr Netanyahu said the politically diverse new coalition would not be able to stand up to the United States if Washington returns to a nuclear deal with Iran nor deal forcefully with Gaza’s Hamas militants, who engaged Israel in 11 days of cross-border fighting last month.
He also criticised Facebook and Twitter, saying the two social media platforms, which he uses extensively, had been blocking legitimate right-wing criticism of the Lapid-Bennett coalition.
Mr Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving leader, has been in office since 2009, and his tenure has been clouded by an ongoing corruption trial, in which he has denied any wrongdoing.
The prospective new government caps political jockeying since the election – Israel’s fourth in two years. People angry at the alliance have held protests outside the homes of opposition politicians, whose security has been beefed up after threats on social media.
Telegraph Media Group Limited