Barak apologizes for Palestinians killed during protests while he was PM

"I bear responsibility for everything that happened, for bad or for good, during my term as prime minister," Barak told Reshet Bet Radio.

July 23, 2019 22:06
4 minute read.
Barak apologizes for Palestinians killed during protests while he was PM

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak gestures after delivering a statement in Tel Aviv, Israel June 26, 2019. (photo credit: CORINNA KERN/REUTERS)

Israel Democratic Party head and former prime minister Ehud Barak apologized for the security force's use of live fire to quash Palestinian protests in 2000 while he was prime minister, killing 13 Israeli Arabs and Palestinians.

"I bear responsibility for everything that happened, for bad or for good, during my term as prime minister," Barak told Reshet Bet Radio, "including the events in which Israeli Arabs and Palestinian citizens of Gaza were killed in October [2000]."

He was referring to a series of violent protests that followed heated exchanges between the Israel Police and Arab MKs, culminating in United Arab List MK Abdulmalik Dehamshe saying that: "We will beat or forcefully attack any policeman and we will break his hands if he comes to demolish an Arab house… we are on the verge of an intifada among Israel's Arabs."

Twelve Israeli Arabs and one Palestinian were eventually killed during the protests.

"I also repeat today, that there is no place in any situation for demonstrators to be killed by live fire of security forces and the police of the State of Israel, their own country," he said.

Barak's comments came in response to an article in Haaretz, written by Meretz MK Issawi Frej, titled "What Barak needs to say."

Barak's Israel Democratic Party has been seeking a partnership with the Meretz Party ahead of the September elections.

In the article, Frej stressed the need for Barak to take responsibility for the deaths that occurred in October 2000 and to apologize to the families of those who had been killed.

"The events of October 2000 took place on my watch," Frej wrote, impersonating what he thinks Barak should say. "Twelve Israeli civilians were killed by Israeli police while I was prime minister. As head of the system, responsibility for this is first of all mine. Even if I did not pull the trigger, even if I did not give the order to shoot, I was the authority: I had the responsibility."

Frej responded to Barak's apology, saying that it was "an important beginning."

"I believe that those who are capable of change are leaders," Frej said. "I'm from Kfar Kassem. My relatives left in '56. It's not something you forget but I do not live in the past. I look at the future and look for good news for my community."

Nonetheless, he was not prepared to fully accept the apology just yet.

"I was supposed to hear Barak's remarks today after a year or two and not after 19 years," he said. "But between intentions and actions there is still a distance. I say honestly: 'A door opened. It is encouraging."

"I am Jewish and not authorized to accept or reject his apology," said Meretz head Tamar Zandberg. "I listened to Issawi Frej. I heard that for him it was an interesting beginning."

Other MKs were less accepting of the apology.

"It's a shame that it took Ehud Barak almost 20 years, and an election campaign in which he found himself in trouble, to get this apology out," said Hadash MK Aida Touma-Suleiman. "What is he not willing to do to get votes from Arabs in these elections?"

Is Barak's apology also taking ministerial responsibility for what was done?" she asked. "Will he work to reinvestigate the events? The apology is a beginning: what's next?"

Barak's apology is empty of meaning and its goal is to try to scratch some votes from the Arab public," Balad MK Mtanes Shehadeh said. "The events of October 2000 are engraved in the collective memory of Palestinian citizens, and no apology will return the dead to their families.

"Those who truly apologize for their actions should first recognize and act against the historical and ongoing injustice to the Palestinian people and act to bring those responsible to justice," he said.

Hadash MK Ofer Kassif responded to the apology, saying: "This apology is important, but words do not heal in themselves, and now actions are needed. This is the time to recognize injustices and to push for a policy of full civic and national equality, and two states side by side in peace and security - Israel and Palestine."

The Likud took the opportunity to slam Barak, calling his apology "pathetic" and demanding that he apologize for being "
the worst prime minister in Israeli history."

"Ehud Barak's pathetic apology, which doesn't convince anyone, is designed for one reason only: to allow his merger with Meretz.

"We are still waiting on his apology for being the worst prime minister in Israeli history: who dangerously disengaged from Lebanon, abandoned IDF soldiers for dead, did nothing in response to the lynch in Ramallah, caused the Intifada, and received $2.3 million from the Wexner Foundation managed by his friend the convicted pedophile Jeffery Epstein."

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