Netanyahu's Writing of Incitement Is on the Wall Again

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at an 'emergency meeting' in Petah Tikva, March 7, 2020.
Moti Milrod

“The incitement to violence is surpassing all bounds; if we don’t wake up, the next political murder is around the corner,” Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz wrote on Friday.

Gantz also pointed an accusing finger at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his associates. “Netanyahu and his people are deliberately fueling a violent, extremist discourse and hinting at destroying all the accepted conventions, solely to avoid trial,” he wrote. He also accused Netanyahu of ignoring the outcome of the election, adding, “Bibi, we saw what happened when incitement ran wild and nobody stopped it back in 1995” – the year Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.

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Anyone on social media would have trouble disagreeing with Gantz’s diagnosis that the writing is on the wall regarding the next murder. The day he wrote that, an activist with the Movement for Quality Government in Israel was assaulted at an anti-Netanyahu protest tent in Jerusalem by a self-identified Netanyahu supporter. The activist was taken to the hospital with mild injuries – bruises on his face – and discharged.

Gantz is also spot-on about Netanyahu’s role in this incitement. From the moment he entered politics, Netanyahu has consistently used hate-mongering and incitement as weapons against his political rivals. What hasn’t already been said about the public mood that preceded Rabin’s murder? But even though 25 years have passed since Yigal Amir fired three bullets at Rabin’s back, Netanyahu has never taken responsibility for his role in that incitement.

Even worse, he has never abandoned his despicable methods. The past year, with its three elections, has brought his incitement to new heights. And unlike during the Oslo Accord era, he can now incite without leaving home. Netanyahu has created an entire network of incitement, including a sophisticated digital branch. Social media serves him and his associates as echo chambers, and the result is a dangerous atmosphere. He has battalions at his disposal, including ministers, Knesset members, relatives, members of his Likud party’s central committee, media figures and activists, all of whom tirelessly disseminate his poisonous messages.

Netanyahu’s statements are incomparably grave, and their purpose is to inflame his supporters and mobilize them for a battle to shore up his rule.

Ever since the results of election were announced and it became clear that his rightist bloc had only 58 Knesset seats, Netanyahu has repeatedly accused Kahol Lavan of “stealing the election” and “stealing votes.” In a video clip, he assailed Kahol Lavan’s leaders and announced that on Saturday night, he would convene “an emergency conference to stop the vote theft.” He declared that millions of right-wing voters wouldn’t allow his rival “to steal the election.” And he continues to claim that the 15 seats won by the Arab parties’ Joint List shouldn’t be counted as part of his opponents’ bloc.

Netanyahu is refusing to accept the voters’ decision. And with this, as Gantz said, he is proving how urgent is the need to replace him, “first and foremost to alter our path and stop the incitement and division.”

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.