Fears of violence ahead of Netanyahu's unseating
The head of Israel's domestic security service issued a rare warning on Saturday of possible violence during one of the most politically charged periods in decades, with the country on the verge of unseating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, its longest serving leader.
Netanyahu is facing the prospect of an end to his 12-year run as premier after Israel's centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid announced last Wednesday that he had succeeded in forming a governing coalition following a March 23 election.
The new government, yet to be sworn in, is an unlikely patchwork of left-wing, liberal, rightist, nationalist and religious parties, as well as – for the first time in Israel's history – an Arab party.
Netanyahu in online posts has warned the partnership was "a dangerous leftist government."
Some right-wing groups are angry at Naftali Bennett, head of a small ultra-nationalist party who is slated to replace Netanyahu in a power-sharing pact with Lapid, garnering many postings attacking him on social media.
Before the election, Bennett had promised he would not join the centrist Lapid, or any Arab party in a coalition.
"We have recently identified a rise in increasingly extreme violent and inciteful discourse particularly on social networks," Nadav Argaman, head of the Shin Bet security force, said in a statement. "This discourse may be interpreted by certain groups or individuals, as one that permits violent and illegal activity that may even cause physical harm."
Since Bennett announced he was joining forces with Lapid, security services have ramped up his protection with right-wing rallies held near the homes of his party members, hoping to keep them from joining the government.
Argaman called on political and religious leaders to show responsibility and tone down potential incitements. His warning was reminiscent to 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 land-for-peace deal with the Palestinians.
Israel's left has for years pointed the finger at Netanyahu, then head of the opposition, for playing a part in incitement that preceded the killing. Netanyahu has vehemently rejected the accusation.