The last time something like this happened was in 1994. Then-Shin Bet head, Carmi Gilon, summoned Opposition leader, Bibi Netanyahu, for a meeting. He warned him that his increasingly vicious rhetoric posed a threat of incitement to violence against then-prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin and other leaders of the government. Gilon asked Netanyahu not only to tone down his rhetoric, but to also explicitly call upon his followers to renounce hatred and violence. Netanyahu refused and less than a year later Rabin was murdered by Yigal Amir.
Today, Shin Bet head, Nadav Argaman foresees the same level of hatred and incitement on social media platforms favored by the Israeli right:
Political incitement, and in particular the use of the term “traitor,” is a highly contentious issue in Israel as it is an accusation that was made by right-wing protesters against prime minister Yitzhak Rabin before he was assassinated in 1995 by a far-right Jewish extremist. The incitement against Rabin, which included him regularly being called a traitor by protesters, was seen as contributing to the motivation of his killer Yigal Amir.
Argaman and the Shin Bet fear that somebody will “misinterpret” the criticisms of the planned change government, the TV report said, “will grab a weapon, will carry out a violent act, and will harm either Bennett or one of the MKs” heading into the change government.
Argaman issued his warning, it said, amid ongoing Shin Bet monitoring of the “social media discourse,” having seen a “very significant surge in recent days of references to ‘treason against the state,’ [and the ostensible imperative to] ‘save the state from the change government’.”
I consulted an Israeli security source, who emphasized the historical parallels: “”2021 is 1995. Bennett is Rabin, and Bibi is Bibi.”
The report in Yediot pointedly noted that Argaman did not coordinate his statement with the Prime Minister. Reading between the lines, it’s clear that the warning is directed specifically at Netanyahu and his more hot-headed supporters.
I published a post a few days ago warning of the similarity in the political environment today and 1995. The most disturbing parallel is of course that Netanyahu was the political leader most responsible for inciting Rabin’s murder. And today, when he is as desperate to remain prime Minister as he was then to become PM, he will stop at nothing to retain power. Being an acute narcissist and sociopath, he believes he is the only person who can lead the country. That he is best-suited, even destined to be its savior. All others are at best pale imitations, at worst intending evil to befall the state.
In such an altered state, so far removed from reality any normal Israeli would know, Netanyahu is capable of saying anything and doing almost anything to cling to control. Add to this, the current criminal trial he faces on three serious counts of corruption, where a guilty verdict would drive him from office as well, and you have a veritable perfect storm of desperation.
In situations like this, the troubled and deranged feel summoned to act (John Wilkes Booth, Ramon Mercader, Lee Harvey Oswald, Arthur Bremer, John Hinckley, Yigal Amir), in precisely the manner mentioned above.
Add to this the fact that Israel is a nation birthed in mass violence. Violence against its foreign enemies and violence against its Palestinian minority and violence between Jews on the right and left. Malcolm X once said after the assassination of Pres. John Kennedy: “violence is as American as apple pie.” In Israel, it is even more so.
The irony in all this is, of course, that when social media platforms were aflame with racist violence and eliminationist rhetoric from Kahanists targeting Israeli Palestinian communities, the security services maintained a radio silence. They appeared helpless and overwhelmed in the face of Jewish pogromist violence. In fact, they care little for violence targeting Palestinians. It’s only violence “among brothers” that really concerns them. Oh, and of course violence by Palestinians against Israeli Jews.