Right-Wing MK Calls for Arrest of Lapid, Gantz

By Yisrael Price

Otzma Yehudit MK Zvika Fogel. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

YERUSHALAYIM — An MK from Otzma Yehudit triggered another round of acrimonious debate on Tuesday about whether the coalition or the opposition represents the real threat to Israeli democracy.

Zvika Fogel told Kan news that opposition leaders should be arrested for “treason against the state” and calling them “the most dangerous people right now.”

Fogel named Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid, Moshe Ya’alon and Yair Golan as the fomenters of civil war and deserving of arrest.

The MK is slated to become head of the Knesset’s Public Security Committee in the coming days.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid responded in a tweet on Tuesday; “It was obvious this would happen. In undemocratic states the government always threatens to arrest opposition leaders.”

Similarly, former IDF chief of staff MK Gadi Eisenkot, a Lapid ally, said: “I am calling on Netanyahu to condemn this. A coalition calling for the arrest of opposition leaders is unacceptable in a democratic country.”

Later on Tuesday, Netanyahu did condemn Fogel’s remarks, but at the same time rebuked anti-government protesters who called members of his coalition Nazis and opposition figures who are fomenting social unrest.

“In a democratic country, we do not arrest the heads of the opposition. Just as we do not call ministers Nazis and a Jewish government the Third Reich, nor do we encourage civil revolt among the citizenry,” he said in a conversation with Herzog, reported by The Times of Israel.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir issued a statement to MKs and activists in his Otzma Yehudit party, saying that “the police will not arrest [oppositionists]…politics doesn’t work that way…I ask of everyone who is interviewed not to speak about this…no political opponent is going to be arrested.”

National Unity party leader Benny Gantz warned on Monday that if the government pursues its judicial reform plan it will lead to “civil war.”

“If you continue on the path you are following, you will be responsible for civil war in Israeli society,” Gantz declared at his party’s Knesset faction meeting, in the latest ramping up of rhetoric against the new government’s agenda to change the balance of power in favor of the legislative over the judicial branch. Among other measures, it would empower the Knesset to override High Court rulings that strike down legislation it deems unconstitutional and reduces the judiciary’s say in the selection of new judges.

“This is the time go out en masse and to demonstrate, the time to make the country tremble,” he said, though he emphasized that all such action must be within the law.

Lapid told his Yesh Atid faction: “This isn’t judicial reform — this is extreme regime change, this is canceling the Declaration of Independence, this is cutting Israel off from the family of liberal countries. This isn’t fixing democracy — this is eliminating democracy.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu criticized Gantz for not condemning protesters who compared his government to Nazis.

“I heard what MK Gantz said and I have to say that I’m shocked,” Netanyahu said in a clip released by the Likud on Monday, and saying it was “a call to sedition from within the Knesset.”

“Someone who does not condemn the comparison of the justice minister to a Nazi and of the government of Israel to the Third Reich — he is the one who is planting the seeds of disaster,” and said Gantz should “immediately” retract his comments.

Education Minister Yoav Kisch (Likud) said in the Knesset on Monday that he had “asked members of the opposition to condemn the incitement against Justice Minister Yariv Levin, but I am sorry [to say] they have not done so,” Ynet quoted him as saying.

Labor party chief Merav Michaeli accused the government of systematic destruction.

“This group of pyromaniacs are going ministry by ministry and simply destroying and ruining.” She declared that the weekend protests were “just the beginning. Make no mistake: We will take to the streets, week after week, until we replace you.”

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich countered that the government’s judicial reform plan aims to “strengthen Israeli democracy” and restore public trust in the courts, which has sunk in recent years.

Smotrich, a key target of the opposition, urged “that everyone cease the inflammatory and inciting discourse at once.”

“From time immemorial, then and now, the nationalist camp has said no to civil war,” he noted.

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