Deputy Finance Minister Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid) denounced the haredim as "parasites" during an interview on haredi radio on Wednesday morning. He almost immediately retracted the comment, explaining that it was said "in a moment of anger."
But radio host Moti Lavi, who is himself haredi, would not dismiss the deputy finance minister's remark so easily. "I'm surprised," Lavi said. "I've known Mickey Levy as someone who was able to understand and work with the haredim."
Referring to Levy's former role as Jerusalem district police chief, Lavi said that he had "managed to do in Jerusalem what others could not", but he was now not the same man who had demonstrated those "magical abilities."
Levy's controversial comment came while he was talking about haredi integration into Israel's labor force. "They must shoulder the burden together, they must integrate," he said. "They cannot be a parasite on the Israeli public."
An outraged Lavi hit back. "Parasites on the Israeli public? Do you really think I am a parasite? That haredim are parasites? How are you not ashamed to say this on the air?"
Levy swiftly apologized, but Lavi did not ease up his criticism. "You apologized because you realized that you've let slip something wrong, but it remains in your thoughts," he told Levy.
The deputy finance minster's comment came two days after Finance Minister Yair Lapid lashed out at haredi lawmakers Monday evening in his first speech in the Knesset since joining the cabinet.
Lapid had not been expected to speak in the Knesset plenum on Monday, but speeches by haredi MKs so angered him that he decided to respond, blaming the haredi parties for contributing to Israel's deficit of almost NIS 40 billion.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.
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