The Shin Bet security service will be put in charge of protecting Benny Gantz amid threats and incitement against him following last week's election and reports that Gantz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's election rival, is working to form a minority government backed by an alliance of Arab parties.
Netanyahu approved the Shin Bet's recommendation that it be put in charge of protecting Gantz, and the decision will now go to a committee for approval.
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The police have received complaints regarding recent social media posts that included physical threats against Gantz. One of them said, “There’s a funeral for Gantz this evening, we have to urgently burn all the leftists coming for a civil war, particularly Gantz the Satan, Gantz should not see the light of day.” Another one read, “Gantz must be murdered.”
The Shin Bet is currently responsible for protecting seven people: the prime minister, the president, the defense and foreign ministers, the Knesset speaker, the head of the opposition, and the president of the Supreme Court.
Gantz has been under the protection of the Knesset Guard, a security unit responsible for protecting lawmakers and the Knesset building.
On Sunday, former Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin told Haaretz he thought that Gantz's protection should be handled by the service. Such a step is necessary, Diskin said, due to an increasingly extreme atmosphere since last week's election.
Also Sunday, acting Police Commissioner Motti Cohen and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit issued a statement in response to the online threats against Gantz.
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The statement said that both of them “regard as very grave any post that includes threats or incitement to violence, and are committed to the cooperation between enforcement agencies to quickly, effectively and determinedly handle expressions that raise suspicions of the crimes of threats or incitement to violence.”
The Shin Bet security unit has more bodyguards and a higher level of expertise at its disposal than the Knesset Guard (although the Knesset’s security guards are highly regarded and some of them are former Shin Bet security staff). The Shin Bet is also closer to real-time intelligence on the risks that an official figure may face.
“Sometimes what you need to resort to is the rule of common sense,” Diskin told Haaretz. “Even if Gantz is not the leader of the opposition, he is now head of the party with the greatest chance of forming a government. The Shin Bet can’t ignore the public atmosphere. In my opinion, it should take a clear professional stand, warn the political leadership of the possible implications and recommend transferring direct responsibility to it for Gantz’s security,” he added.
“The decision should err on the side of caution. There is the potential here of reverting to the days of the mid-90s,” Diskin said, referring to the atmosphere of incitement before the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. “Social media is amplifying the effect of the incitement,” he added.