Israeli Leaders Face Death Threats After Condemning Right-Wing Attacks

The team of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has filed a complaint to the police after a surge of online death threats from Jewish extremists and an Israeli mayor had his car torched after both officials condemned the arson attack which killed a Palestinian baby on Friday.

Following the murder of 18-month-old Ali Dawabsha, Rivlin gave a speech at an anti-extremism rally in Jerusalem's Zion Square on Saturday where he said that Jewish extremism "has spread within us" and is "wreaking havoc," while mourning that "flames have engulfed our country."

"It seems we have been lax in our treatment of the phenomena of Jewish terrorism," he said in a statement released a day earlier. "Perhaps we did not internalise that we are faced with a determined and dangerous, ideological group, which aims to destroy the fragile bridges which we work so tirelessly to build."

"I believe that the more we understand this significant danger to the State of Israel, the more we will be aware to confront it, and uproot it," he added.

In response, a series of posts on social media mocked the Israeli premier in an Arab keffiyeh (headdress), referred to him as a traitor and called for his assassination for speaking out against the Dawabsha's murder. Some of the posts which threatened the life of the Israeli leader included "your end is nigh" and "may you and your children also burn."

The comments renewed memories of the atmosphere before the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 by a right-wing Jewish extremist after a rally in support of the Oslo Accords, which outlined steps towards the Palestinians achieving self-determination.

One user likened Rivlin's demise to that of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who died after eight years in a coma, commenting: "You bloody loser, your end will be worse than Sharon's, you will see. I pray that another 'Yigal Amir' will rise to cleanse you and the Arabs from our Jewish country, and so I wish you ill health and any other suffering."

A spokesperson for Rivlin confirmed to Newsweek that a complaint has been handed to Israeli police, after being urged to do so by Israel's domestic security agency, Shin Bet, but said that Rivlin's security detail would not be increased in response to the social media threats.

In another suspected hate crime, a bomb detonated in the parked car of David Even Zur, the mayor of northern Israeli town Kiryat Yam, near the city of Haifa on Saturday. Nobody was injured in the blast near Zur's home but the vehicle was destroyed. Zur has been assigned a bodyguard following the incident, which came after his Facebook post on Friday which called for peace between Jews and Arabs.

"On Tu B'Av, the festival of love, when around us we are seeing more and more displays of hatred and violence that make us all cringe, we must love and respect each other," he wrote, according to Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz.

"This is the time to remember the most important commandment, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself,' which encapsulates the entire Torah. Let's stop hating, quarreling and fighting ... and, as it says in the book of Psalms, 'Turn from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.'"

The suspected right-wing attacks came just days after Yishai Shlissel, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, attacked revellers at a gay pride march in Jerusalem on Thursday with a knife. A 16-year-old girl stabbed in the incident, Shira Banki, has succumbed to her injuries.

On Sunday, the Israeli security cabinet approved tougher measures to counter "Jewish terrorism" following the wave of violence that has rocked Israeli and Palestinian communities. The cabinet sanctioned the use of administrative detention for Jewish suspects, a controversial law enforcement method where people can be detained without charges brought against them or a trial.

The cabinet also confirmed that a new ministerial taskforce, headed by Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon, will look into new ways of countering the types of terror attacks witnessed in the last week, with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked also on board.