Six leading religious-Zionist rabbis issued a letter on Saturday calling on the public to do "everything" in their power as not to allow the new government that was announced last week, which intends to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to materialize.
"This government runs completely counter to the will of the people as definitively expressed in the last election. It is not too late, it is certainly possible," reads the statement, which was signed by Rabbis Chaim Druckman, Shlomo Aviner, Shmuel Eliyahu, Yitzchak Ben Shachar, David Chai Hacohen and Eliezer Waldman.
This Reporter Entered Gaza After the War – and Saw the Full Might and Force of Israel’s Army. LISTEN
"It is impossible to accept the reality that a government will be formed in Israel that will harm the most fundamental aspects of religion and state matters that have been accepted since the establishment of the State of Israel until today by all Israeli governments," read the statement.
"There is no doubt that security matters that concern the core of our existence will also be harmed by this government, as it relies on supporters of terrorism and ministers who call on the International Court of Justice in The Hague to investigate IDF commanders for war crimes," referring to the United Arab List's Mansour Abbas and Meretz's Nitzan Horowitz, respectively. According to the six rabbis who issued the appeal, it is for these reasons that "we must make an effort to do everything so that this government does not materialize."
Following public criticism sparked by the rabbis' appeal, Rabbi Druckman posted a video on Saturday night in which he "ask that everyone calm down" and claimed that the letter did not contain any incitement. "When concerned with the rabbis' letter to act against the formation of the government of change, as if it were some kind of incitement, then I want to reassure everyone: there is no incitement here, the incitement exists only in the imagination of those who say it is so," Druckman said.
"This is actually a real, painful appeal from rabbis who think that the government that is about to be formed will not be good for the people of Israel." He added, "It is inconceivable that this is a form of violence – whether it is physical or even verbal violence, but rather, everything possible can be done democratically to prevent the establishment of this government."
The rabbis' appeal to the public comes as Shin Bet Chief Nadav Argaman warned against incitement earlier Saturday, saying that it could lead to physical violence as vitriol surrounding the political situation in Israel reaches a peak.
- Volatile days for Netanyahu, dangerous days for Israel
- Shin Bet head warns: online incitement, calls for violence could lead to physical harm
- A day after new government announced, Instagram and Twitter temporarily ban Yair Netanyahu
On Thursday, Shin Bet assigned a security detail to Bennett for the first time, after Yamina Chairman Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid's Yair Lapid announced they had formed a government. This move is unusual as Israel’s internal security service only protects the prime minister, president and leader of the opposition.
Although the Shin Bet chief did not name him specifically in his statement on Saturday, Argaman was referring primarily to threats against Bennett and other members of his party, following their decision to enter into a government with Yesh Atid and other parties seeking to oust Netanyahu.
Argaman said in his statement that "Israel was built on the principle of free speech. It is important and necessary in a democratic nation. However, recently we have identified a grave increase and intensification in violent and inciting discourse, particularly on social media." Argaman added, "this discourse includes grave statements, using strong, hateful language, and even calls for physical attacks."