“This is the time for all public leaders to come out in an unequivocal call against every threat, whatever the democratic decisions are,” said Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, per the Times of Israel. “We all need to respect them and avoid sparking a dispute — let alone, God forbid, a civil war.”
Right-wing politician Naftali Bennett’s announcement Sunday that he intended to deliver the required votes to form a government with center-left opposition leader Yair Lapid caused turmoil in Israel. Netanyahu blamed him for making a self-interested play for the prime minister’s office at the cost of Israeli security, but the opposition leaders condemned Netanyahu with thinly concealed references to claims that he was linked to Rabin’s death at the hands of a right-wing extremist who opposed the Oslo Accords.
“That fact that elected officials are being threatened over taking part in democratic processes raises a great concern that we have not learned the lesson, neither from the Jewish history of baseless hatred nor from the murder of Rabin,” Gantz said.
Rabin was assassinated in 1995 after consulting with the Palestinian Liberation Organization to build the Palestinian Authority to promote a two-state solution to the long-running war between Palestinian militants and Israeli security forces. Yigal Amir, a Jewish law student, was sentenced to murdering him and is serving a life sentence in prison.
Rabin’s widow blamed Netanyahu for the killing, as the then-opposition leader had begun a campaign to oust Rabin on a platform of opposition to his approach to the peace process. Netanyahu, who went on to win the prime minister's office for the first time in 1996, praised his fallen rival. But such public statements never have put to stop the argument that his views about the putative imprudence of Rabin’s approach had stoked murderous animosity toward his opponent.
Lapid and other opposition leaders struck a similar note. “We’ve all been threatened with violence and murder,” Lapid said, accusing Netanyahu of giving “a dangerous and unhinged speech” in response to Bennett’s announcement.
Netanyahu claimed Sunday that Bennett’s plan represents “a danger to the security of Israel and a danger to the future of the state.” The senior Israeli leader is on the brink of political disaster, but discrepancies between the coalition partners and pressure from angry right-wing voters could still cost the opposition bloc the parliamentary votes needed to strike a power-sharing bargain.
“That’s our first test. To see if we can find smart compromises in the coming days to achieve the greater goal,” Lapid said, adding that if they succeed, “suddenly it will be quieter, ministers will go to work without inciting, without lying, without trying to instill fear all the time.”