“It’s Bennett who is causing people to die!” yelled MK Moshe Gafni. He later apologized.
By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News
MK Moshe Gafni of the United Torah Judaism party called Prime Minister Naftali Bennett a “murderer” during a heated speech at the Knesset on Tuesday evening, sparking backlash from critics who said his remarks were akin to incitement.
“We’re sitting here for four days, [dealing with Religious Affairs Minister] Matan Kahana, and we’re not talking about corona,” said Gafni in a clip published by the Knesset Channel.
“To people who are dying right now from corona, it’s [the fault of] Naftali Bennett. He is their murderer!” he yelled.
“It’s he who is causing people to die!”
When Deputy Knesset Speaker Ahmad Tibi told Gafni to tone down his remarks and refrain from calling Bennett a murderer, the lawmaker said, “Fine. It’s his fault people are dying from corona right now.”
Gafni’s remarks come weeks after members of the new government, including coalition chair Idit Silman of Yamina, were given special police protection due to death threats.
The governing coalition has argued that statements from former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called the new government “dangerous,” are a form of incitement that could lead to lawmakers being physically harmed.
Netanyahu and other critics of the new government have defended their remarks as part of normal political discourse, citing intense vitriol from the other end of the political spectrum during the former prime minister’s tenure where charges of incitement are selectively applied.
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said that Gafni had expressed regret for his comments.
“He later apologized,” she told Ynet. “This is a statement that no politician should say. You can criticize, that’s fine. You can even give harsh criticism, but not talk like that.”
“Everyone must calm down and lower the flames a bit,” she said.
“You can criticize in a matter-of-fact way, [and] the role of the opposition is certainly to criticize the government, but not in such a way. With such a statement, the lines have been crossed.”