Ron Huldai
Ron HuldaiIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai revealed Thursday that he has received many threats in the past few days, apparently from leftist social activists seeking to pressure him to leave protest tents in the city alone. Huldai has been assigned a security detail by police specifically to protect him from organizers of the tent city on ritzy Rothschild Boulevard and other areas, who have been resisting attempts by the city to persuade them to leave.

Tent demolitions received a reprieve Wednesday night, as Tel Aviv Civil Court judge  Malka Sapinzi issued an order late Wednesday preventing the Tel Aviv Municipality from continuing to demolish illegal tent cities on Rothschild Boulevard and other areas that, despite guarantees by protest groups that they are to be removed by Friday, show no signs of coming down.

Huldai said that the city had every right to remove the tents, which were set up months ago by protesters demanding a more reasonable cost of living and cheap apartments in central Tel Aviv. “There are people that live on Rothschild and the other areas where the tents were set up,” Huldai told Army Radio. “Sanitation workers have picked up 5 tons of trash from Rothschild, there are large nests of fleas and other pests there now.” He added that the tents were by all definitions illegal, and that the squatters clearly had no legal leg to stand on.

The court decision late Wednesday capped a long day of near-rioting by tent dwellers, who threw eggs and trash and shouted epithets outside the Tel Aviv Municipality in Rabin Square, and later outside Huldai's house in the Tzahela neighborhood. Protesters demanded that Huldai come out and talk to them directly, and at several points tried to break through a substantial police line into the Municipality building. Over 40 protesters were arrested.

Huldai said he had received phone calls and letters threatening him with bodily harm if he did not call off city demolition squads and leave the tents alone. “I know the faces of the protesters and can guess which ones are threatening me,” Huldai told Army Radio. “They are always violent. Some of them brought guillotines to the protests, I suppose to hint at my beheading. But as we know, symbols have meaning. There were symbols and pictures before the murder of Yitzchak Rabin, we cannot dismiss these things.”

Nevertheless, Huldai said, he supported the protesters. “I can honestly tell the protesters that I have supported their cause from the beginning and will continue to do so.”

The media has been curiously silent on the threats to Huldai, said one official close to the Judea and Samaria (Yesha) Council. “As we know, when the memory of incitement against Rabin is mentioned, we are talking about a serious problem, and Huldai would certainly not make the comparison on incitement against him and Rabin lightly,” the official said. “As such we would expect Huldai to file a police complaint against these inciters, some of whom he says he believes he could identify, just as anyone else from the left would file a police complaint against someone from the right that was suspected of far less. Are the leftist tent protesters incapable of 'Rabin-style' incitement against Huldai?"