Likud member apologizes for calling Benny Gantz 'autistic'

Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid, who has an autistic child, slammed Coalition Chairman David Amsalem (Likud), saying, "for him, being my daughter is a curse." Lapid has an autistic child.

David Amsalem (L) and Benny Gantz (R) (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
David Amsalem (L) and Benny Gantz (R)
Coalition chairman David Amsalem (Likud) apologized to anyone he offended after he called Israel Resilience leader and former chief of staff Benny Gantz “autistic.”
He made the comments during an interview with Radio Darom on Monday, claiming Gantz had thrown himself “a retirement party that cost NIS 600,000 in taxpayer money,” adding that the former IDF chief is “autistic” for not realizing how much the party cost.
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, who has an autistic child, slammed Amsalem on social media.
“Dudi Amsalem just said on the radio that Benny Gantz is autistic. For him, being my daughter is a curse because in Amsalem’s world, being weak always comes at a cost,” he wrote.
“Benny Gantz is not autistic, Mr. Amsalem,” he continued. “There’s no need for him to stop the car on the side of the road if he has a wild tantrum and then bites his mother. He doesn’t take food from the tables of other diners in a restaurant. He doesn’t need to be completely sedated when he gets dental work. His parents don’t stay up at night worrying about who will care for him when they’re older,” he said.
“I’m a politician; I’m supposed to always speak properly. Not this time. Beware of me Dudi – I ask you to speak nicely about my daughter,” Lapid said.
Labor MK Stav Shaffir, who has an autistic sister, expressed deep anger in response to Amsalem’s comments and slammed the Likud-led government for neglecting those with special needs.
“I hope for your sake you’ll never have to deal closely with those who have autism,” she wrote on Facebook, “and [that you] don’t experience for yourself the miserable way the government you’re a member of neglects the helpless.”
Following the chaos, Amsalem posted an apology on Facebook.
“I did not mean to hurt anyone, I apologize from the bottom of my heart. How many times have you ever said in life [to someone], what, are you crippled? Are you are blind? Are you autistic? These are things that almost all of us say in everyday life, and yet none of us have any intention of harming these populations,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the election period is an ugly time of the year that brings out the worst. I admit that the word ‘autistic’ was insensitive.”
“Each and every one of you must know that I had no intention of hurting anyone, not the daughter of Yair Lapid, not my little sister, who unfortunately is also in a similar category, and not anyone who suffers from one or another type of defect,” he added.
Together with the post, Amsalem also published a picture of himself together with a child at the Shalva Institute, the National Center for the Treatment of People with Disabilities.
Maariv Online contributed to this report.