Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denied the allegations of incitement and said the newly formed Israeli coalition that is about to oust him is the result of the “biggest electoral fraud” in the history of democracy.
In power for 12 consecutive years, Netanyahu faces being overthrown by a multicolored coalition of eight parties united solely by their shared hostility toward him.
“We are witnessing the biggest electoral fraud in the country’s history, in my view in the history of any democracy,” Netanyahu said in comments to lawmakers from his right-wing Likud party.
Pregnant in a court battle over corruption charges that could see him sentenced to prison, Netanyahu has mobilized his supporters to strip the deserters ahead of a confirmation vote.
On Saturday, the head of Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency Nadav Argaman issued a rare public statement warning of a “serious escalation in violent and inciting speeches” on social media.
“Some groups or individuals might understand this speech as possible illegal violence that could even cost their lives,” said Argaman, who called on public officials to “make a clear call to stop this speech.”
A Shin Bet spokesman would not tell the AFP news agency if Argaman was referring to a particular group or threatened person, simply saying, “This is a general environment that needs to be stopped.”
However, politicians who oppose Netanyahu and some local media have interpreted Argaman’s statement as a warning to the prime minister.
“There is a very thin line between political criticism and incitement to violence,” Netanyahu said Sunday.
“We cannot say that when criticism comes from the right, it is incitement to violence and when it comes from the left, it is a justified use of freedom of expression,” he told a members ’meeting. of the Likud party.
“I condemn any incitement to violence,” he added.
Netanyahu claimed he himself was the target of an “even more serious” campaign and re-described the coalition that wants to replace it as a “dangerous left-wing government”.
The alliance comprises three right-wing parties, two centrists and two left-wing parties, in addition to one party of Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Under the coalition agreement, Naftali Bennett, of the far-right Yamina party, would be prime minister for two years, replacing centrist Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid party in 2023.
Netanyahu supporters have been working hard to win over defections from uncomfortable Yamina deputies working with Palestinian citizens of Israel and Jewish leftists.
Some have held demonstrations outside the home of Yamina lawmakers.
A vote of confidence, the last step in formalizing the new government, could be held on Wednesday or the following Monday, according to Israeli media.
In a televised speech, Bennett asked Netanyahu’s parliamentary speaker and loyalist Yariv Levin not to try to gain time to encourage members of the new coalition to desert and said he should hold the vote on Wednesday. There was no immediate comment from Levin.
“Let go. Let the country move forward,” Bennett said, addressing his statements to Netanyahu, who has held the post since 2009.
“Mr. Netanyahu, do not leave the scorched earth behind. We all, the whole nation, want to remember the good you did during your service. “
Parliament’s security committee said it would hold an emergency meeting on Monday at 9am (6am GMT) “in light of the unusual warning from Shin Bet chief”, as well as for calls from figures far-right for a march on Israel – occupied East Jerusalem on Thursday.