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Shining City Upon a Hill

Israeli intelligence chief warns of political violence as Netanyahu attacks government waiting to replace him

Few Israelis expected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to leave quietly after 12 straight years in power, but the vitriol he has unleashed on the members of the "change coalition" set to replace him, and the response from his supporters, has raised concerns of political violence. Politicians, commentators, and even Israeli spy chiefs are comparing the moment to the lead-up to  the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol or the 1995 assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a far-right Israeli settler. 

Nadav Argaman, head of the Israeli internal security service Shin Bet, warned Saturday that the "extremely violent and inciting discourse" against lawmakers in the anti-Netanyahu coalition "may be interpreted by certain groups or individuals as one that allows for violent and illegal activities that may even, God forbid, become lethal." 

Netanyahu, at a meeting of his Likud party on Sunday, alleged that the election was marred by fraud and urged lawmakers to vote against seating the coalition government next week. He has generally condemned any incitement or violence, but he has not disavowed protests by his supporters outside the homes of coalition lawmakers, some of whom now have bodyguards because of death threats.

Netanyahu's son Yair was suspended from social media after posting the address of one targeted lawmaker in Yamina, the right-wing nationalist party of incoming prime minister, Naftali Bennett. "Mr. Netanyahu, don't leave scorched earth behind you," Bennett said Sunday.

After the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, The Washington Post notes, Netanyahu said he would leave if voted out, removed a photo of himself and former U.S. President Donald Trump from his Twitter banner, and called the storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters seeking to keep Trump in office "disgraceful" and "the stark opposite of the values that Americans and Israelis uphold."

Now, "with his brother-in-arms Trump out of power," Alon Pinkas wrote in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, "Netanyahu has one last page to copy from Trump's playbook: Creating his own 'January 6.'" 

Tamar Zandberg, a Knesset (parliament) member from the leftist Meretz party and environment minister in the pending government, told Politico she started getting death threats the day after Netanyahu mentioned her name five times in a televised address to attack Bennett joining the change coalition. "I think it's very similar to what Trump and his hate groups and supporters were doing in the time before the Capitol attack," she said.