It was predictable given the fervor of the left-wing demonstrations against Benjamin Netanyahu that talk of assassination would arise sooner or later.
Despite their own calls that right-wing Israelis accept the results of the previous election that propelled Yair Lapid and his center-left allies to power, left-wing Israelis have largely refused to pay the same courtesy to Netanyahu and his new coalition, which won a firm majority in the most recent vote.
It’s not just that they oppose his proposed policies. They insist Bibi is an unrepentant criminal and a danger to democracy who must be removed from power.
Since the electorate clearly isn’t going to send Netanyahu packing (most Israeli voters are right-wing), some on the left are now proposing more drastic measures.
“If a prime minister stands up and assumes dictatorial powers for himself, he is a dead man, it’s as simple as that. There’s an obligation to kill him,” wrote prominent anti-Netanyahu activist Ze’ev Raz.
Raz is a well-known figure as one of the former Air Force pilots who bombed Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981. More recently he played a leading role in the anti-Netanyahu protest movement of 2020 and 2021.
His above remark, which was posted to Facebook, seemed to evoke the Jewish religious concept of din rodef, a Talmudic teaching that encourages the extrajudicial killing of a person who intends to harm others. According to Raz and others in his camp, Netanyahu’s proposed judicial reforms will “lead to many deaths.”
Yigal Amir appealed to din rodef in defending his decision to assassinate former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.
Police officials at the weekend said they would investigate Raz for incitement to murder. He then quickly removed the post and claimed that he “did not identify with it,” despite having posted it on his personal Facebook account.
Resort to live fire?
Police officials said they would also be investigating the remarks of Israeli attorney David Hodek after he encouraged the use of “live fire” to prevent Israel from becoming a “dictatorship.”
“If someone forces me to live in a dictatorship and I have no choice, I won’t hesitate to use live fire,” Hodek told the Israel Bar Association’s annual conference in Eilat last week.
And he wasn’t talking metaphorically. Hodek went on to stress that he was being quite literal.
“People are willing to fight with weapons. Everyone is aghast [at such statements]. They say ‘How can you say such a thing?’ I’m saying it. If I’m forced to go there and they drag me there, that’s what I’ll do,” he told the gathering.
Like Raz, Hodek is considered a war hero for his conduct as a tank commander during the Yom Kippur War in 1973.
He later claimed on Twitter that he had not called for the use of real weapons in opposing Netanyahu’s policies.
Crossing the line
There has already been much talk of the possibility of Israel descending into civil war. The violent rhetoric now coming from the anti-Netanyahu movement would seem to bolster fears that such an outcome is possible.
Netanyahu responded to the recent incitement by saying his opponents had “crossed the line.”
“In recent weeks we have witnessed a growing wave of incitement. Lines are being crossed every day, and it seemed like every boundary had already been crossed in threats on elected officials and on me. But clearly not, because today we heard and saw a clear threat to murder the prime minister of Israel,” he told reporters while returning from France on Saturday.
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