Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a scathing public letter to Israel's Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit on Tuesday, accusing him of not acting on threats and incitement against him. The attorney general responded hours later, strongly refuting the claims, and intimating that politicians should act "responsibly."
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"Your inaction in the face of calls for murder of me and my family, and the threats to rape my wife, amounts to is nothing less than a show of scandalous disrespect," Netanyahu wrote in a letter made public on his Facebook account.
"How would you react if these sexual threats were aimed not against my wife, Sara Netanyahu, but against your wife, Ronit Mendelblit?"
The post then quoted an alleged tweet by someone who said it was his patriotic duty to sodomize the prime minister's wife.
Although it did not specifically make the connection, the police later said it had investigated a social media post threatening Sara Netanyahu, which was brought to their attention a few days previously. A man was questioned in connection with the post by a specialized cyber-crimes unit on Tuesday, and was later released with a caution. The post in question was from March 2019, the police said in a statement.
In his response, Mendelblit wrote that "There is no basis to your claim that anyone is taking complaints by you or your family members lightly." According to Mendelblit, "All law enforcement agencies, including Israel Police, the State Prosecutor's Office and myself personally, handle with the utmost seriousness and determination any complaint of incitement or threat against you or your family that raises criminal suspicions."
Mendelblit said 19 cases were opened over threats of violence against the prime minister and his family, many of them after Netanyahu filed a complaint. They were handled quickly and decisively, he said, clarifying that in those cases the approval of the State Prosecutor's Office was not necessary in order to start an investigation into the matter.
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The attorney general also said his office had opened 20 cases investigating suspected incitement against the prime minister or his family. Most came from the police, only a few due to complaints filed. Of those, a probe was opened into ten cases, and one indictment was filed so far.
He noted that he sent a letter to the Shin Bet internal security service asking they make sure the head of the government has enough security. He mentioned the letter sent by Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman to Public Security Minister Ohana, which was published in the media, in which Argaman said the agency was taking necessary steps to secure the prime minister.
Mendelblit added that elected officials also play a central role in calming public discourse, "Lest we find ourselves facing harsh and unforgivable circumstances."
'Condemn threats of violence from any side'
"It is important to emphasize: I condemn violence and threats of violence from any side," Netanyahu said in his letter to Mendelblit.
There have been multiple arrests of people suspected of physically assaulting protesters at anti-Netanyahu demonstrations because of right-wing beliefs, and while Netanyahu has repeatedly alleged violent incitement and threats against him, others have accused him of being ultimately responsible for attacks on protesters.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid called Netanyahu's letter "another attempt by Netanyahu to divert public discourse from the fact that he has failed miserably in managing the coronavirus crisis."
He called demonstrators protesting against Netanyahu's government "great people who care about the state," adding that "sexual remarks and violence against the prime minister and his family are wrong, but marginal."
"The State of Israel needs a small and efficient government headed by a person who devotes his time to the public, and not to his paranoia and indictments," he concluded.
Over the last two months, Netanyahu has filed several police complaints over incitement against him and his family. Last month, the prime minister pressed charges after a post by a Facebook profile called "Dana Ron" said: “Bibi needs to be removed by force only… Dictators can only be moved with a bullet to the head!”
Attorney General Mendelblit has recently been the target of multiple attacks from high-ranking officials in Netanyahu's inner circle. The attorney general, who was appointed by Netanyahu, has come head to head with the prime minister in a series of affairs, including, most importantly, the trial that Israel's longest-serving prime minister is facing in three corruption cases.