Netanyahu: General's comments were 'outrageous and cheapen the memory of the Holocaust'

Netanyahu lashes out at Deputy Chief of General Staff Mag.-Gen. Yair Golan for comments made during a Holocaust memorial service comparing modern day Israel to Nazi Germany.

May 8, 2016 12:18
4 minute read.
 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) attends a meeting of the Likud party

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) attends a meeting of the Likud party in the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not call for the dismissal of IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan for comments he made last week suggesting certain parallels between what happened in Nazi Germany and current developments in Israel, despite slamming Golan for those remarks on Sunday.

Netanyahu did not ask Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to fire Golan, and does not plan to do so, according to government sources. Netanyahu and Golan are expected to meet on Monday at the traditional pre-Independence Day toast with the general staff.

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Netanyahu broke sharply with Ya’alon on the issue Sunday and publicly chastised Golan.

Ya’alon, on the contrary, issued a statement last Thursday standing by Golan and rebuking those who criticized him.

Netanyahu, at the start of Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting, said Golan’s words were “infuriating” and “baseless.”

“They should not have been said at any time, certainly not when they were said,” the prime minister said of Golan’s remarks, made at a ceremony last Wednesday night on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The general’s words “do an injustice to Israeli society and cheapen the Holocaust,” the prime minister said.

Netanyahu said that while Golan was an outstanding officer, “his words on this matter were completely mistaken and are unacceptable to me.”

Netanyahu’s comments were his first public statements on the matter since Golan gave his speech at a ceremony at Kibbutz Tel Yitzhak, near Netanya. After Golan’s comments caused a furor, Netanyahu called Ya’alon, and the following morning Golan issued a clarification.

The IDF Spokesman issued a statement in Golan’s name saying he had “no intention of comparing the IDF and the State of Israel with things that went on during the Nazi period.

The comparison is absurd and lacks any foundation, and there was no intent to draw such a parallel or to criticize the civilian leadership.”

At the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said every country has displays of intolerance and violence.

“Israel’s democracy is strong,” he said, “it rejects these displays and deals with them according to the law and by other means.”

At a meeting of Likud ministers before the cabinet meeting, Science, Technology and Space Minister Ophir Akunis called on Golan to apologize for his remarks, and not just clarify them.

While Akunis said Golan was a “much appreciated officer,” he said his words were “unfortunate and caused a great deal of damage to Israel’s public diplomacy throughout the world.”

If there is a place for comparison between the situation today and what it was in Europe in the 1930s, Akunis said, “it is in the rise of anti-Semitism, labeling the products of Jews and boycotts.”

It is a shame, he said, that this was ignored by Golan.

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev went a step further and called for Golan to resign.

“I am sure that if the deputy chief of staff were a member of the Labor Party in Britain he would already have been fired,” she said. “His comments were lies and not suited to his position, and I think he should resign from his position.”

Golan, however, was not without his defenders on Sunday, as several lawmakers in the opposition referred to Netanyahu’s controversial remark last year implying that Hitler did not intend to annihilate the Jews until Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini convinced him to do so.

Zionist Union faction chairwoman Merav Michaeli said, “Someone who took away Hitler’s responsibility for the idea to exterminate the Jews should not join the chorus of criticism of someone who spoke from his heart about the populist discourse in Israel for which the prime minister is very much responsible.”

MK Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union) added: “It’s absurd that he who cheapened the Holocaust in the most brutal way dares to accuse the deputy chief of staff.

“The number of times the prime minister used the memory of the Holocaust for his political needs is infinite... He who lives in glass houses, etc. This is pure cynicism,” she said.

Netanyahu also addressed the recent tension in the South at the cabinet meeting, saying the IDF will continue to operate as necessary to discover and neutralize Gazan attack tunnels.

“We are not sparing any efforts or resources to provide security to the citizens of the communities near Gaza,” he said. “These communities have flourished over the last two years, with an increase in the number of residents. We are working to continue that trend.

We are not looking for an escalation, but we will not be deterred from what is needed to ensure security.”

Netanyahu’s comments came after a letter sent to him on Saturday night by 12 local council heads from the South calling on him to implement a government decision to develop the Negev, and who charged that the area’s health services were inferior to those of the rest of the country.

“In the name of the citizens of the South and the Negev, we are turning to you with a request to provide us with the right to live like all other Israeli residents and get the same quality health service that will protect our families,” the letter read.

Among the demands are building another hospital in the South, and the addition of nearly 100 more beds to Soroka-University Medical Center in Beersheba.

Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.

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