Israeli press review: US Capitol riots spark fear that Netanyahu backers could do the same

Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu (AFP)

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  January 8, 2021

Israelis analysts warn of the possibility that Netanyahu supporters could take violent action should the PM lose upcoming elections.

Storming of Capitol Hill could happen in Israel: analysts

Israelis fear that the storming of Capitol Hill by supporters of outgoing president Donald Trump is a scenario that could be replicated in Israel if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was defeated in the upcoming March legislative election.

Hundreds of US President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed a session of Congress that was certifying Joe Biden’s election win in Washington DC, disrupting the special session in the chambers and leaving five people dead.

Israel is facing its fourth election in two years, while Netanyahu faces corruption charges in court, in which he denies any wrongdoing. 

Ron Ben Yishai, a military analyst at the Yedioth Ahronoth, wrote that “This can happen to us too,” adding that politicians and officials in Israel “should pay attention to the dangers lurking down the slippery slope”, the polarisation of political camps, and populist sentiments growing in the country.

Baruch Kra, a legal analyst also wrote for Walla that “the Trump and Netanyahu administrations during the last term behaved as if they were Siamese twins – in terms of the rule of law, hatred for the ‘deep state’, reckless incitement against anyone who is not in their two camps, reckless incitement against a free press, dissemination of despicable conspiracy theories in social networks and complete destruction of the value of the truth.

“Do you really think that this is an American story that could not happen here?” Kra wrote.

On Thursday, Netanyahu condemned the storming of Capitol Hill, saying: “For generations, American democracy has inspired millions around the world and in Israel. American democracy has always inspired me.”

Netanyahu added that the storming of Capitol Hill “was shameful and must be vigorously condemned” and expressed his hope that, with “no doubt”, US democracy “will prevail”.

Several Israeli politicians and officials also stated that they were aghast at the scene emerging from Washington.

Benny Gantz, Israel’s defence minister, said footage from Wednesday would “hurt the heart of anyone who believes in democracy”.

“This is proof that before political rivalry, we must agree on the rules of the game: preserving the rule of law, respecting democratic processes and a respectful discourse,” he added.

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi tweeted expressing his shock at rioting in “the fortress of world democracy”.

“I am sure that the American people and its representatives will know how to repel the attack and continue strongly defending the values on which America was founded, which are important to all of us,” he wrote.

In Haaretz newspaper, writer Yossi Verter also raised the possibility of a storming Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, by Netanyahu supporters, many of whom hail from the right-wing and settler groups in the occupied West Bank.

“How are we different from them? Will Benjamin Netanyahu and his cohorts behave differently if they discover after 23 March that they no longer hold power?” Verter wrote.

“[Netanyahu] and Trump, members of a mutual admiration society, are shameless liars and instigators. Both lack values, norms and minimal integrity. They are contemptuous of the trappings of state, the rule of law, the gatekeepers.

“They despise anyone who doesn’t obey them. They surveil their rivals, ignite insane conspiracy theories and manage a low-skill work environment of pitiable yes-men who are required to lie in their name,” he added.

Most Israelis fear a Capitol Hill scenario

In a poll reportedly published on Friday by Hebrew daily newspaper Maariv, 56 percent of Israeli respondents said they feared that an incident in which the Knesset building was stormed much like the US Capitol could follow the 23 March election.

According to the poll, 23 percent of the respondents were “sure” that such an event would happen in Israel, while 33 percent said they “expect it”.

The percentage of centre-left voters who believed such a scenario was likely stood at 77 percent.

Voters for the right-wing parties were less sure, with only 28 percent expecting an event similar to Capitol Hill.

Regarding who they thought could riot or storm the Knesset, 44 percent of respondents said they believed it would be supporters of right-wing parties, while 34 percent of right-wing voters said it would be leftists.