Netanyahu slams ‘death threats’ as Israelis protest justice reform
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned of increased violence and death threats as protests continue against his government’s planned judicial reforms.
Netanyahu criticized the “growing wave of daily incitement that goes too far,” his office said Sunday. He also spoke of “an explicit threat to kill the Prime Minister of Israel” as well as threats against other elected officials.
He was referring to a Facebook post from an Israeli reservist colonel. She said, among other things: “If a prime minister comes and assumes dictatorial powers, this prime minister will die … along with his ministers and the people who carry out his orders.”
The former fighter pilot, who led the Israeli Air Force’s 1981 attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor, later distanced himself from the site. However, the police opened an investigation.
For weeks, Israelis have been demonstrating against a plan by the far-right Netanyahu government to deliberately weaken the country’s justice system. Experts openly warn that reform could endanger democracy in Israel.
Of the threat against him, Netanyahu said: “I know there is debate about what endangers democracy but that’s not something in dispute – it really endangers democracy.”
Faced with further calls for violent resistance to reform, the head of the Shin Bet’s domestic intelligence service, Ronen Bar, declared a “zero tolerance policy” against incitement to violence.
March of tens of thousands
Earlier on Saturday, tens of thousands of Israelis demonstrated for the fifth consecutive Saturday night against the controversial restructuring of the justice system.
Despite the rainy weather, a crowd of about 40,000 people gathered in the center of the coastal city of Tel Aviv.
Many waved Israeli flags and chanted “Freedom, equality and good governance”. About 10,000 people also took to the streets in Haifa.
Eliad Shraga, head of the Government Quality Movement, likened Netanyahu to the Roman Emperor Nero, who viewed the burning of Rome with relief.
Shraga repeatedly shouted “Shame, shame, shame” and the crowd joined him. He said Netanyahu wanted to abuse the reform to avoid conviction in his corruption trial.
Netanyahu faces charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery – allegations he continually denies, calling them a “witch-hunt”.
Shraga also warned of the government’s “diabolical plan” to transform Israel from a democratic Jewish state into a dictatorship.
Saturday’s protests come days after Israeli Attorney General Ghali Bahrav-Miara said Netanyahu should not participate in the controversial judicial restructuring, citing a “potential conflict of interest”.
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