Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir warned on Monday that the potential for political violence in the country is real, and placed blame squarely on the shoulders of the opposition.
“In contrast to those leading the civil-war campaign, the incitement to murder, the refusal to serve in the IDF and BDS against the state, I read the intelligence reports and receive ongoing situation assessments,” said Ben-Gvir.
“The fear of bloodshed is real. The irresponsible leadership on the left has lost its [compass],” he added.
Earlier, Ben-Gvir told the Kan public broadcaster that “It is forbidden to generalize, most of [the protesters] are good people, but there are those among them who are planning the next assassination, who say that me and Sara Netanyahu should be taken down, that [Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu should be killed.”
The comments come amid ongoing demonstrations against the government’s judicial reform proposal, with protesters having again defied police orders by blocking traffic arteries during a mass rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday night.
Police used water cannons to disperse protesters who broke through barriers to the Ayalon Highway, and detained at least four people.
Ben-Gvir held a situational assessment in Tel Aviv, and again instructed police to not allow “anarchists” block major routes. “I came here to exercise my policy. I have no intention of apologizing, certainly not to the anarchists who want to set the state of Tel Aviv on fire,” he said.
In response, opposition leader Yair Lapid said that Ben-Gvir was inciting to violence.
“The dangerous TikTok clown is continuing to incite and encourage violence,” tweeted Lapid, adding: “There has never been a government minister who openly sought clashes between the police and citizens.”
Last week, Lapid called on police to ignore Ben-Gvir’s “dangerous” and “irresponsible” directive, accusing the minister of trying “to heat things up even further.”
On Monday, the opposition leader took to Twitter, writing: “First, the TikTok clown [Ben-Gvir] made up that he looks at screens and gives orders. This morning, he started inventing ‘intelligence materials’ that do not exist. This is not only ridiculous, but also dangerous.”
Anti-judicial reform demonstrations turned violent on Wednesday, which protest leaders dubbed a “Day of National Disruption.” They held marches throughout the country and strikes at businesses and schools. They also laid out plans to block roads and make “house calls” to the private residences of coalition lawmakers.
In response, the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) will take over responsibility for protecting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife and sons, the Ministerial Committee for Shin Bet Affairs decided on Sunday.
The Prime Minister’s Office requested the protection following the March 1 incident in which the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, had to be rescued by hundreds of police after being trapped for hours by anti-reform protesters in Tel Aviv.
Also Sunday, Israeli opposition leaders again rejected overtures for negotiations under the auspices of the president.
In the latest offer for compromise, the main leaders pushing the reform—Justice Minister Yariv Levin and MK Simcha Rothman, who chairs the Knesset committee dealing with the legislation—accepted a proposal by the Israel Manufacturers Association, the Chambers of Commerce and groups representing tech companies and building contractors for talks starting on Tuesday at the President’s Residence, without preconditions.
“From the very first day we said we were in favor of a dialogue in an attempt to reach an understanding on the reform and at least to reduce the controversy,” the leaders of the reform said in a joint statement. “We respond to the call for talks without preconditions and call on others in the opposition to respond to the initiate and attend talks with the president on Tuesday.”
Opposition leaders, however, swiftly rejected the proposal, demanding that the reforms’ legislative process be frozen.
Earlier on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been barred by the attorney general from discussing the reforms due to a possible conflict of interest with his ongoing criminal trial, called on the opposition to present their own proposal for judicial overhaul.
“For eight weeks we have been calling for negotiations. We are bringing the reform to the Knesset to decide,” he said at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting. “I call upon those in the opposition to do something simple: Present your alternative in an attempt to reach an agreement.”
The premier said that with goodwill an agreement could be reached “within days.”
Lapid has rejected numerous coalition overtures, instead demanding that the legislative process be frozen for at least 60 days and that any talks be based on a plan presented by President Isaac Herzog, who holds a largely ceremonial position.
Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant denounced on Sunday a decision by reserve fighter pilots to boycott mandatory training exercises in protest of the government’s judicial reform plans.
“The situation today requires dialogue and quickly. We face heavy and complex external challenges, and any call to refuse orders harms the functioning of the Israel Defense Forces and its ability to carry out its tasks,” said Gallant.
Earlier, a group of 37 Israeli Air Force reserve pilots announced that they would skip a day of combat training this week.
Protester organizers have announced another “Day of National Disruption” against the reforms for Thursday.