Naftali Bennett: Israeli Government Struggles For Survival Amid Death Threats To Prime Minister | International

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Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at a rally at a military base on April 5.Maya Alleruzzo (AP)

The Shin Bet, the Israeli secret service, has reinforced the security of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his family after he received a letter at his private home containing death threats and a live bullet. The security services appear to have taken the intimidation seriously, given the unusual deployment of bodyguards surrounding the head of government in photos of his official acts distributed after the end of Passover last weekend. “A single bullet inside an envelope can become three bullets fired from a pistol,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz has warned, in a thinly veiled allusion to the assassination of Prime Minister Isaac Rabin in 1995.

To get out of a period of instability and political blockade that led to the calling of four legislative elections in two years, the broad coalition led by Bennett removed the conservative Benjamin Netanyahu from power just 11 months ago, who had been in office for 12 years and is on trial. for corruption. He is now struggling to survive after losing his majority in the Knesset (Parliament), threatened by the withdrawal of essential support from an Islamist Arab party and amid tension in Jerusalem during the month of Ramadan.

The police squad against organized crime that tracks the threats to the prime minister has declared the investigations secret, which in Israel means a ban on reporting on most of the case in the media. Bennet’s internal Cabinet limited itself to confirming on Tuesday afternoon that the president’s surveillance had been reinforced. Since the assassination of Rabin in Tel Aviv at the hands of an extremist Jew opposed to the peace process with the Palestinians, the Israeli heads of government have had a special protection team, uniformed with short-sleeved overshirts, which exercises strict security control . For example, the monitoring procedures for the press to access the prime minister’s acts can take more than two hours.

Bennett has preferred to continue living in his house in Raanana, in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, rather than in the official residence of the prime minister in the center of Jerusalem. That’s where the letter containing a bullet arrived. It is not the first time that the leader of the ultranationalist and religious right has received threats from Israeli extremists frustrated by the pragmatic drift of a government supported by eight parties, which brings together conservatives, centrists and the left, as well as the Arab Raam party. .

Last August, a young radical Jew was arrested in Ashkelon (south) for having addressed the prime minister through social networks with these words: “You will end up just like Rabin.” He was sentenced to seven months in prison. “A political conflict, no matter how deep, should never lead to harassment, threats or violence,” Bennett wrote on Facebook on Tuesday. “I am a politician, but also a husband and a father, and I must protect my family. It is necessary to put out the flames of the political debate”, he warned.

The flight of an Orthodox religious deputy from the Yamina party, led by Bennett, deprived the government coalition of the majority of 61 deputies in a 120-seat Knesset at the beginning of the month, and forced a technical tie with the opposition. The escalation of violence in the Esplanade of the Jerusalem Mosques, after police interventions that have resulted in two hundred wounded Palestinians, shortly after led the Islamist Raam party to withdraw the support of its four parliamentarians to the Executive. Political instability has also coincided with a wave of attacks that has caused 14 deaths in Israeli cities and with interventions and raids by the security forces in the West Bank in which nearly three dozen Palestinians have lost their lives.

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Israeli Labor Party leader and Transport Minister Merav Michaeli at a political rally in 2021.
Israeli Labor Party leader and Transport Minister Merav Michaeli at a political rally in 2021.Sebastian Scheiner (AP)

“It is a time of grave challenge [para la supervivencia] of the coalition, which is trying to avoid a return to political chaos,” Merav Michaeli, leader of the Labor Party and Minister of Transport, acknowledged on Monday in a meeting with foreign journalists in Jerusalem. “All the parties of the alliance are working to maintain stability (…) and for this it is necessary to reduce the tension in Jerusalem as much as possible,” she assured. Michaeli is an outspoken supporter of reaching a “political solution” with the Palestinians, based on the two-state principle, but her position is not shared by a majority of government partners.

The key had been given the day before by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the centrist Yair Lapid, an architect and brain of the government coalition, in an unusual press conference with international correspondents. “Israel is committed to preserving the status quo on the temple mount [como los israelíes denominan a la Explanada de las Mezquitas]. Muslims pray in it, non-Muslims just visit it,” she proclaimed at the outset. “There is not going to be any change or a partition of the venue, those are just hoaxes,” he clarified.

During the recent Jewish Passover, which coincided with the Christian Holy Week and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, more than 3,800 Jews have visited the site where the Islamic shrines of Al Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock are located. This is a record figure, according to official Israeli data cited by France Presse. The Chief Rabbinate firmly vetoes the prayer of the Jews in the place where tradition places the remains of the ancient temples of Jerusalem, but numerous messianic nationalist militants defy secular and religious prohibitions to pray secretly in the Esplanade of the Mosques.

The outbreak of violence in the disputed walled area, sacred to the three monotheistic religions, has also undermined Israel’s alliance with strategic Arab countries. Before the ministers Lapid and Michaeli appealed to contain the tension in the Old City, King Abdullah II of Jordan, custodian of the holy places in Jerusalem; The president of Egypt, Abdelfatá al Sisi, and the leader of the United Arab Emirates, Mohamed Ben Zayed, had called on Sunday from Cairo for the “preservation of the status quo legal and historical” of the Holy City.

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