Detention Extended for Netanyahu Supporter Suspected of Threatening Bennett

Police seek charges of threats to commit an act of terror, extortion through threats, transporting a weapon and conspiracy to commit a crime; 65-year-old Ashkelon resident denies sending letters with bullets to Bennett's family

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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The suspect entering the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court on Tuesday.
The suspect entering the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court on Tuesday.Credit: Hadas Parush
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

An Israeli court extended on Tuesday the detention of a 65-year-old Ashkelon resident who was arrested Monday on suspicion of sending threatening letters to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his family.

The police have asked to extend her detention by 10 days, and are investigating her on charges of extortion through threats, carrying or transporting a weapon, threatening to commit an act of terror and conspiracy to commit a crime.

Last month two letters, both containing bullets, were sent to Bennett's wife and son, and police believe the suspect was responsible.

The woman, a prominent supporter of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, often calls Bennett a "murderer," "swindler," and "traitor" on social media. She denied sending the letters. Her identity and the details of the investigation are under a gag order.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his wife Gilat at a ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day, in the Knesset, last month.

Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court Judge Erez Melamed said, "the evidence indicates a reasonable suspicion of a threatening offense." He added, "we cannot take these accusations lightly. Sending letters with bullets and threatening texts can quickly turn into physical violence."

In a discussion with a police representative, Melamed said that he believes this case does not amount to a terror offense, as opposed to the position of the police. Melamed further said that accusations do not amount to extortion through threats, rather a charge of making threats. The maximum sentence for making threats to commit an act of terror is seven years imprisonment.

An investigation conducted by Israel's Shin Bet security services and the police revealed that the suspect's motive for sending the letters was her dissatisfaction with the government's handling of the political and security situation. Prior to sending the letters, the woman, a resident of the southern city of Ashkelon, had spoken out against Bennett on social media, the investigation said.

Following the threat last month, the Prime Minister's Office announced that it would increase the Bennett family's security detail. The prime minister's security detail was already at the highest level.

“A political argument, no matter how deep it is, should not come to violence, bullying and death threats,” Bennett said in a statement shared on his social media pages after the threats were made public.

Last year, a Kiryat Gat resident was sentenced to seven months in prison for threatening to kill Bennett. The sentence included five months in prison for threatening the prime minister, and another three months for prior threats against his family members.

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