Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the opening session of the Knesset, October 15, 2018.
(photo credit: ESTI DESIOVOV/TPS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced criticism from politicians from the opposition and quietly even ministers in his Likud Party Tuesday after he responded to a heckler who repeatedly interrupted his speech at the inauguration of a medical center in Kiryat Shmona by telling her that she is boring.
Local political activist Orna Peretz initially heckled Netanyahu when he was about to deliver a eulogy for his friend and lawyer Jacob Weinroth. The prime minister initially responded politely by saying he would address her concerns after he said something personal. But when she persisted, he reacted differently.
Peretz interrupted Netanyahu when the prime minister was speaking about the right of all citizens to receive adequate medical treatment no matter where they are.
“Then why did you take away the emergency room?,” she shouted, to which Netanyahu responded: “You’re not interesting. You’re boring us.”
Peretz said in interviews that she did not deserve to be treated disrespectfully by the prime minister. She was immediately embraced by politicians in the opposition, including Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay, who spoke to her on live television, and was told by Peretz that she had voted Likud all her life and would no longer do so.
“You don’t bore me at all, of course,” Gabbay told her. “We listen to you. Wherever I go, I listen to people, especially on such things.”
Likud MKs and a minister who asked not to be named said that the prime minister had made a mistake that could harm him and the Likud politically, and that he should have been more sensitive.
“What is happening here is that we are laughed at in the face,” Peretz said in a radio interview shortly after the incident. “The streets are neglected. There is plenty of corruption and gangs. There is no budget.”
Peretz said that she was immediately silenced and bullied by the prime ministers’ associates after her comments, and was showered with degrading curses.
“Where is the democracy that he prided himself with yesterday on the Knesset podium?,” the frustrated Peretz complained.
Insisting that she is a huge Netanyahu supporter, she nevertheless lamented the situation in her hometown, especially the fact that the emergency room at the local hospital was closed five-and-a-half years ago, and that proper medical treatment is far away.
Sources close to Netanyahu said that the prime minister does not usually react to hecklers, but was personally offended when the woman interrupted even when he wished to eulogize his friend Weinroth. They said he would not call Peretz or apologize beyond what he posted on Twitter several hours after the incident.
“This morning, a political activist interrupted my speech at the inauguration of a medical center in Kiryat Shmona,” Netanyahu wrote. “It happened hours after I was told of the death of my soul mate, attorney Jacob Weinroth. I am used to criticism, and I have no problem with heckling. It has happened to me thousands of times in my life. But today, in the depth of my pain, I felt it was simply inappropriate.”
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid also had an experience with a heckler Tuesday at a conference of the anti-Defamation League.
“I understand older people who shout,” Lapid told the heckler. “I want to speak to the young people here.”