The furor over an IDF general’s comparison of contemporary Israel to Nazi Germany turned into a partisan brawl on Sunday as opposition politicians rejected Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s rebuke of the officer.
Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog called Netanyahu’s “attempt to level a threat and silence IDF officers dangerous and unprecedented.”
“The deputy chief of staff spoke about the illness in Israeli society and clarified that he wasn’t drawing a connection with the Nazi [German] regime,” Herzog said in a statement.
Turning Netanyahu’s words against him, he called the prime minister’s attack on an IDF officer who wasn’t able to defend himself “outrageous and inappropriate.”
Netanyahu publicly rebuked Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, the IDF Deputy Chief of Staff, for saying that he sees evidence in present-day Israel reminiscent of the “nauseating processes” that took place in Nazi Germany. Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, Army Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and other officials came to his defense, saying that he was warning of troubling trends in society.
But Netanyahu called the comments outrageous, saying at his weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday that “they cause harm to Israel and cheapen the Holocaust.”
“The comments do injustice to Israeli society and cause a belittling of the Holocaust,” said Netanyahu. “The Deputy Chief of Staff is an outstanding officer, but his remarks on this issue were utterly mistaken and unacceptable to me.”
Besides Herzog, Meretz party leader Zehava Galon sniped at the prime minister, saying, “if there’s anybody who understands cheapening the Holocaust…”
MK Shelly Yachimovich, a senior member of Zionist Camp, similarly blasted Netanyahu, saying it’s “absurd” for Netanyahu, “the most brutal cheapener of the Holocaust,” to accuse the Deputy Chief of Staff of cheapening the Holocaust.
The prime minister, she said in a statement, has “co-opted the memory of the Holocaust for his own political needs endless times,” and his attack on Golan is “cynicism for cynicism’s sake.”
Minister of Science Ofer Akunis (Likud), among others, took Netanyahu’s side, demanding a straightforward apology from Golan, not just the clarification he issued.
“Golan is a valued military official, but his comments are pathetic and cause great damage to Israel’s image around the world,” Akunis said.
Akunis noted that the “explanation” that Golan subsequently gave of his words was not enough, and that “a clear apology and denunciation of the terrifying comparisons is required.”