Yishai apologizes for 2nd Lebanon War comment

Interior minister: I regret offending bereaved families of fallen soldiers – the press twisted my words.

Eli Yishai 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Eli Yishai 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Interior Minister Eli Yishai apologized on Wednesday for what he called a “false headline” about his commentary that the negative results of the Second Lebanon War were because IDF soldiers are less religiously observant than in the past.
Speaking in the Knesset, Yishai said that the reports “have no connection to what was said.” He expressed regret that people were hurt or offended by the reports, even if they were inaccurate.
RELATED:Yishai condemns 'wild incitement' against haredimPM plans to extend ‘Tal Law’ for 5 years“The most important thing is that the bereaved families were hurt, so I apologize for the insult, for the words that were said, even if they were distorted and twisted,” Yishai said in the plenum.
Yishai then explained what he meant to convey on Tuesday night: During the 1967 Six Day War, Israeli society was united in its belief in God, and was therefore able to win despite the army being smaller and weaker than it is today.
However, Yishai added, in current times, people are more selfish and focused on “me and me and me,” which is unhelpful in a war.
“When we all pray to God, we have more help from the heavens, more success,” he said. “Anyone who believes in God surely believes this as well.” Yishai also criticized those who falsely reported his words for not considering the feelings of bereaved families.
He made his comments after answering a parliamentary question on an unrelated topic.
Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni (Kadima) commended Yishai for apologizing, saying that his original comments were inappropriate.
“There is a limit to how much IDF soldiers, bereaved families and all those who serve in the army should have to hear,” she said.
Yisrael Klauzner, the father of an IDF soldier killed in the Second Lebanon War, responded to the comments by calling Yishai a stupid man who should be fired from his position.
“He’s not worth responding to, but if he was a smart man he would know that over half of the fallen soldiers were from settlements or religious and wouldn’t say something like this,” he said.
Klauzner’s son Ohad served in the Golani Brigade’s 51st Battalion. He was 20-years-old when he was killed in fighting in the south Lebanon village of Bint Jbeil on July 26th, 2006.
Klauzner told The Jerusalem Post that he and the parents of other fallen soldiers from the Second Lebanon War are putting together a letter to send to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in which they will demand that he remove Yishai from his cabinet.
Klauzner said that while it is not the point, his son did in fact observe Jewish mitzvot and studied in a religious school in the moshav of Beit Horon outside Jerusalem, where he grew up.
Klauzner also called on the government to not re-sign the Tal Law, which enables yeshiva students to defer the draft, arguing that the religious should be sent to fight in lieu of secular soldiers.
“If so many religious soldiers don’t go to the army and the secular soldiers who go instead of them are the ones who die, I say they shouldn’t go,” he said. “Either they should not enlist or the state should just draft the religious and they can fight and ensure a victory.”
On Wednesday, Yishai issued an apology for his statements, in which he said “I apologize to all of the bereaved families whose sons gave their lives for the people and the land [of Israel]. The families of the fallen are sacred to the people of Israel.”
Eli Ben-Shem, Chairman of Yad Labanim, the national organization that memorializes fallen soldiers and provides assistance to their families, said Wednesday that after Yishai’s remarks the organization received hundreds of complaints from bereaved families who do not accept the minister’s apology and are calling for him to issue a clearer retraction of his statement.
He said such statements “divide the people of Israel” and should not be uttered by public leaders.
Ben-Shem added that at the military cemeteries across Israel “Druse, Jews, Arabs, Circassians, Beduin, and Christians who fought side-by-side and fell in battle together are buried next to one another. Death does not distinguish between one type of blood or another or one level of belief or another.”