Hostile Protesters Heighten Concern for Premier’s Safety

Rhetoric used by Israelis demonstrating against the latest Israeli-Palestinian accord has heightened concern here about possible political violence against the prime minister and other senior government officials.

Israeli security services and the president of the state have noted the similarities between protest actions against the Wye River Memorandum, signed at the White House last Friday, and those directed against the Oslo accords preceding Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination three years ago.

The Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, denied reports that security around the prime minister has been increased, though there has been some consideration of limiting Netanyahu’s appearances in large gatherings.

Police questioned several right-wing extremist leaders, after they made statements considered incitement at the funeral of an Israeli murdered in a terrorist attack near Hebron earlier this week.

One of the speakers, Noam Federman declared that “they [the ministers] are responsible for this bloodshed. The Holy one, blessed be he, wants there to be revenge.”

Security officials believe there may be individuals who would act on those words — raising concerns for possible attacks on Israeli leaders, including Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai and Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon, the three leaders who negotiated the Wye accord.

Israeli political leaders also have appealed to the public to refrain from the kind of political incitement which preceded the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.

“I hope we don’t repeat the same terrible mistake,” President Ezer Weizman told reporters after a meeting with Netanyahu. “The prime minister reached an agreement which I think is an appropriate one. If we return to the same kind of incitement against him as was directed against another person, it will be very grave.”

Weizman’s appeal came in the wake of an angry demonstration outside the prime minister’s residence Monday night, when protesters called Netanyahu a traitor for signing the Wye agreement.

Members of the National Religious Party, which has opposed the transfer of additional West Bank land to the Palestinians, joined in Weizman’s call for restraint.

“I appeal to my colleagues in the national camp, those who are justifiably in pain over the [accords] that alongside the public protest, they make clear that certain red lines cannot be crossed,” NRP Knesset member Hanan Porat told Israel Radio.

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