‘This will end in bloodshed,’ Israel’s public security minister warns at rising incitement

After protesters were assaulted on Tuesday night, Netanyahu, President Rivlin and Public Security Minister Ohana condemned the violence and called for an end to incitement.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

After an attack on protesters during a Tel Aviv demonstration on Tuesday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, and Public Security Minister Ohana condemned the violence and called for an end to incitement.

The protest, which began in front of Ohana’s Tel Aviv home, turned violent after demonstrators said they were ambushed by far-right counter-protesters wielding hammers, pepper spray, and knives.

Local media reports said 10 protesters were hospitalized, two with stab wounds. On Wednesday, Israeli police announced that four suspects in the attack were arrested.

Protest organizers released a statement dismissing the possibility that the attack was “a spontaneous event.” Rather, they say, it was “a planned ambush aimed at killing protesters. There is no other way to explain an attack with batons, smashed bottles and knives.”

In an interview with Israel Hayom, Ohana spoke out about the increasing political hostility in Israel, which has now spilled out into violence on the streets.

“There won’t be a civil war,” Ohana said, “But increasing violence – yes. There is an atmosphere of hatred in the demonstrations, not of disagreements. There have always been and always will be disagreements, but this time there is an intense hatred between the parties.”

“I hope I’m wrong, but I think this will end in bloodshed. There are explicit calls for the assassination of the Prime Minister! People shouting ‘traitor’ are the ones expressing themselves relatively calmly,” he said.

Speaking about acting Police Minister Moti Cohen’s strategy for the protests, Ohana said, “If all the protests were handled the same way, I’d give him a score of 100.”

“But my feeling, and the public’s feeling, is that the protesters are treated differently. For the ultra-Orthodox, harsher – but for protesters with media backing and media encouragement, it’s a different attitude.”

President Rivlin addressed the Israeli public on Thursday, calling for restraint. “The murder of a demonstrator who goes out to protest in the state of Israel, and the murder of a Prime Minister, are not imaginary scenarios.”

“We know this horrible reality,” he said, referring to the 1994 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the 1983 murder of Emil Grunzweig at a Jerusalem protest.

“Woe to us if we deteriorate into that reality again,” he added.

Prime Minister Netanyahu tweeted, “The investigation into the incident in Tel Aviv is in progress. I expect the police to find the truth and bring those responsible to justice. There is no room for violence for any reason.”

“Equally, there is no room for incitement and threats of murder – implicit and explicitly- against me and my family.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz also spoke out on Twitter, writing, “Last night, a red line was crossed when citizens exercising their right to protest were attacked by organized crime gangs. As Minister of Defense and as a member of the government, I insist that the right to demonstrate be preserved and that the safety of citizens be guaranteed everywhere.”

“[Those responsible for the violence] must be caught and brought to justice. Protests will not be silenced as long as we are here,” he said.