Coalition calls to probe Netanyahu for ‘smearing Israel’s reputation'

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu posted a video in English to social media in which he denounced coalition legislation as anti-democratic.

 Opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, November 8, 2021. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, November 8, 2021.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Several senior coalition officials have backed a letter calling on Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy to hold a hearing in the Knesset plenum against opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu for a video he posted to social media that denounced coalition legislation as antidemocratic.

The letter, initiated by Yesh Atid faction chairman Boaz Toporovsky, said Netanyahu was smearing Israel’s reputation and acting like the hostile international NGOs that routinely condemn the Jewish state.

In response, the Likud said it was the government that was smearing Israel’s reputation by legislating “laws in the style of Syria and Iran,” referring to a bill designed to create term limits for prime ministers and a bill to prevent an MK on trial from forming a coalition.

A Likud source said Netanyahu spoke in English “since this is about a global struggle for Western democracy.”

In his video posted on Twitter last week, Netanyahu said these bills, which have not been passed, were designed to stop him from running in elections “and deprive millions of Israelis of their choice for leadership.”

 OPPOSITION LEADER Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset last week. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90) OPPOSITION LEADER Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset last week. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Netanyahu also attacked a coalition bill that would allow a judge to order the removal of social media content containing incitement to violence or could cause injury to mental health and a bill expanding warrantless police searches.

“This is not even a slippery slope; this is a chasm,” he said. “It’s the Grand Canyon, where the fundamental rights of democracy are just buried – down the stream they flow and disappear.”

The coalition faction leaders wrote to Levy: “The activity of the opposition leader on social media constitutes a platform for disseminating slander against Israel around the world and gives additional material to those trying to harm us, our stability and our resilience.”

Netanyahu’s decision to speak in English in the video instead of Hebrew did extra damage to Israel since it demonstrated that his audience was the international community and not Israelis, they wrote.

“Netanyahu, who during all his years in power fought fiercely against different organizations seeking to harm Israel, has now joined them and become one of those who spread incitement against us,” they added, accusing him of doing so “out of narrow, personal political interest.”

In response, the Likud said: “The ones smearing Israel are the coalition [partners] of [Prime Minister Naftali] Bennett and [Justice Minister] Gideon Sa’ar, who are legislating Iranian- and Syrian-style laws in Israel. First they advance laws to silence people, and now they seek to silence those who criticize those laws.”

Likud MK Miri Regev accused the coalition of hypocrisy for attacking Netanyahu.

“When [Meretz MK] Mossi Raz asked European parliamentarians to condemn the State of Israel, that’s okay,” she said in reference to Raz’s efforts to have hundreds of European MPs and members of the European parliament sign a letter condemning Israeli policy in east Jerusalem, as reported by The Jerusalem Post.

“When [Health Minister and Meretz leader] Nitzan Horowitz calls for IDF soldiers to be investigated in the Hague, that’s okay,” Regev said, adding: “Where will we get to with this obsession with Benjamin Netanyahu?”

Gantz on Monday said the government “would not accept lectures on morality whose modus operandi is antidemocratic.” Netanyahu’s attack against the legislation “does not represent the legislative reality and is likely to be a tool for our enemies to do great damage to the State of Israel,” he said.