Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the incitement accusations, saying that the newly formed Israeli coalition that is poised to topple him was the result of the “biggest electoral fraud” in the history of democracy.
In power for 12 years in a row, Netanyahu faces being toppled by a heterogeneous coalition of eight parties united only by their shared hostility towards him.
“We are witnessing the largest electoral fraud in the history of the country, in my opinion in the history of any democracy,” Netanyahu said in comments to lawmakers from his right-wing Likud party.
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 speech” on social media.
“This speech could be understood by certain groups or individuals as enabling illegal violence that could even cost a life,” said Argaman, who asked public officials to “issue a clear call to stop this speech.”
A Shin Bet spokesman did not tell AFP news agency whether Argaman was referring to a certain threatened group or person, he simply said: “This is a general atmosphere that must stop.”
However, politicians opposed to Netanyahu and some local media outlets have interpreted Argaman’s statement as a warning to the prime minister.
“There is a very fine 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 meeting of Likud party members.
“I condemn any incitement to violence,” he added.
Netanyahu claimed that he himself was the target of an “even more serious” campaign and again called the coalition seeking to replace him as a “dangerous left government”.
The alliance comprises three parties from the right, two from the center and two from the left, as well as a party of Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Under the coalition agreement, Naftali Bennett of the far-right Yamina party would be the prime minister for two years, to be replaced by the centrist Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid party in 2023.
Netanyahu supporters have been working hard to win the defections of Yamina deputies who feel uncomfortable working with Palestinian citizens of Israel and leftist Jews.
Some have held demonstrations in front of the homes of Yamina lawmakers.
A parliamentary vote of confidence, the last step to formalize the new government, could take place on the following Wednesday or Monday, according to Israeli media.
In a televised speech, Bennett asked Yariv Levin, a speaker of parliament and a loyalist to Netanyahu, not to try to buy time to encourage members of the new coalition to defect, and said he should hold the vote on Wednesday. There was no immediate comment from Levin.
“Let him go. Let the country move forward,” Bennett said, directing his remarks to Netanyahu, who has been in office since 2009.
“Mr. Netanyahu, don’t leave the scorched earth behind. All of us, the entire nation, want to remember the good he did during his service. ”
Parliament’s security committee said it would hold an emergency meeting on Monday at 9 a.m. M. (06:00 GMT) “in light of the unusual warning issued by the head of the Shin Bet,” as well as calls by far-right figures for a march in Israel’s occupied East Jerusalem on Thursday.