Top domestic security officials in Israel have warned of potential violence directed at members of Israel’s incoming unity government, amid claims they have “betrayed” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
A final vote will be held this week on whether to approve Yair Lapid’s hybrid national unity government – composed of eight parties ranging from hard-left to hard-right – that was first announced last week.
In recent days, Netanyahu has stepped up his rhetoric directed at the supporters of Naftali Bennett, a one-time ally whose defection to a centrist bloc appears to have ended Netanyahu’s 12 years in office.
"All legislators elected by votes from the right must oppose this dangerous left-wing government," Netanyahu tweeted, using the phrase “dangerous” that immediately raised alarms in light of the shocking communal violence that terrified much of the country during last month’s operation in the Gaza Strip.
“This [month’s] collapse of the [Netanyahu] government [after 12 years] has turned many right-wing activists against one another,” an official from Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, Shin Bet, told VICE World News.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorised to speak publicly. “We are seeing threats and schisms within radical groups that need to be closely monitored because of fears extremists could act violently,” the official said.
Shin Bet normally focuses on threats against Israelis made from the occupied West Bank or Gaza Strip, but on Saturday its head, Nadav Argaman, made an extremely rare public statement warning that overheated rhetoric where political opponents are painted as dangerous enemies posed a massive internal threat.
Such statements, said Argaman, are “liable to be interpreted by certain groups or by individuals as one that permits violent and illegal activity that is liable, heaven forbid, to reach mortal injury.”
“It is our duty to come out with a clear and decisive call to stop immediately the inciting and violent discourse,” he said. “The responsibility for calming spirits and reining in the discourse rests on all of our shoulders.”
“Nadav was forced to say something out of fear,” said the Shin Bet official. “We can see potentially violent people all over because of the long heated rhetoric: Everyone is an enemy or a threat to Israel, not just a political opponent. Very scary.”
The official said much of the concern comes from the belief that while right-wing activists might expect the left to oppose them, the coalition is seen as a betrayal of the movement and much more likely to draw a violent response.
“A potential right-wing terrorist will be far more angry at the betrayal of a right-wing party than of a left-wing party that they expect to behave a certain way,” said the official, describing why the internal fight among the Israeli right is more dangerous than typical political tensions.
“We are monitoring so many potential threats using language like treason, executions, betrayal that we are not well equipped for this mission,” said the official on how the security services are designed to focus on Arab threats against Jews.
“The system is designed to look outward for threats, but in this situation we see the threats coming from inside,” they said. “This is a very dangerous situation.”