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Israeli spy chief warns of US Capitol-style violence as Netanyahu faces ouster

Supporters of Israeli "change coalition" rally in Tel Aviv on June 2, 2021 as opposition leader Yair Lapid tried to form a coalition to end the long reign of hawkish right-wing leader Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo by AFP)

A senior Israeli intelligence official has warned of politically-instigated domestic violence similar to the January mayhem on the US Capitol, after the opponents of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the formation of a coalition to oust the embattled incumbent.

Nadav Argaman, head of the Israeli regime’s internal spy agency Shin Bet, expressed concern on Saturday about rising incitement and hate speech on social media amid political infighting after the opposition announced an agreement on forming a coalition cabinet without Netanyahu.

Argaman warned that the provocative discourse could spark political violence similar to the takeover of the US Capitol building in Washington DC early this year.

On January 6, a large group of staunch supporters of then-US president Donald Trump stormed the Capitol to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 presidential election, which he had criticized \ as “rigged.” House Democrats impeached Trump for “inciting insurrection,” but he was eventually acquitted in the Senate.

“We have recently identified a serious rise and radicalization in violent and inciting discourse, specifically on social media,” Argaman said in a statement, warning that such online chatter could lead some groups or individuals to take violent action and even harm others.

“This discourse may be interpreted among certain groups or individuals as one that allows violent and illegal activity and could even lead to harm to individuals,” he added, calling on political leaders and their supporters to show responsibility and tone down potential incitements.

The warning comes as Netanyahu is facing the prospect of an end to his 12-year run as premier after Israel’s centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid announced on Wednesday that he had succeeded in forming a coalition following a March 23 election.

The coalition -- an amalgamation of left-wing, liberal, rightist and religious parties -- has been under fire from Netanyahu, who has warned that the partnership was one of “a dangerous leftist.”

Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, the leaders of the right-wing Yamina alliance, which very recently joined the newly formed coalition, as well as other coalition politicians and their supporters have allegedly received threats from Netanyahu backers, prompting police to ramp up their security.

Israel’s right-wing groups are angry at Bennett, who is slated to replace Netanyahu in a power-sharing pact with Lapid, as he had promised before the election he would not join any party in a coalition.

Netanyahu has been premier for the past 12 years, earning the nickname “magician” for managing to hold onto the post by hook or by crook.

His popularity, however, suffered a fatal plunge among the Israelis, who had been holding regular rallies outside his residence for months on end to force him to resign.

The far-and-wide resentment is owed in part to Netanyahu’s indictment in a number of corruption cases as well as his mishandling of the economy and the COVID-19 pandemic.

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