Gantz unlikely to support Eitam for Yad Vashem chair

Sources close to Blue and White leader say he will only support a ‘statesman-like and apolitical figure.’

HALL OF Names, Yad Vashem.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
HALL OF Names, Yad Vashem.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
Against the background of fierce controversy surrounding the appointment of former hard-right politician Effi Eitam as Yad Vashem chairman, sources in the Blue and White Party close to Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz have said he will only support “the appointment of a statesmanlike and apolitical figure who has an undisputed public reputation.”
The Jerusalem Post, therefore, understands that Gantz is unlikely to support Effi Eitam.
Eitam is a retired IDF brigadier-general, and a government minister from the National Union Party. Higher Education Minister Ze’ev Elkin has nominated him to serve as the new chairman of Yad Vashem, despite extreme comments he has made in the past about Palestinians and Israeli Arabs, as well as allegations that he authorized brutality against Palestinians while serving as a senior military officer.
Until now, the Blue and White Party has declined to express an opinion on the matter.
The comments by Blue and White sources on Thursday came following the approval of Eitam’s candidacy earlier this week by an internal government committee. His prospective appointment has prompted a public protest campaign by figures among Israel’s opposition and by respected local and international Holocaust scholars and museum curators.
Eitam’s candidacy now needs the approval of the cabinet, but the Blue and White sources indicated on Thursday that Gantz and his party are unlikely to vote in favor.
Blue and White sources added that it was considered unlikely that a vote on Eitam’s appointment would even come to the cabinet in the near future due to a standoff between the Likud and Blue and White over the appointment of other senior officials, such as a new police commissioner and attorney general.
In 2006, at a memorial event for a soldier killed in the First Lebanon War, Eitam said that Israel would need to “expel the large majority of Arabs of Judea and Samaria; [things are] impossible with all these Arabs here, and we cannot give up on the territory.”
At the same event, he said that Israeli Arabs need to be “removed from the Israeli political system,” describing them as “a fifth column,” and that “we cannot continue to allow such a large and hostile presence within the Israeli political system.”
Eitam has spoken out on numerous other occasions against Arab political parties and their MKs.
Earlier this week, a petition against Eitam’s appointment was initiated by dozens of international historians, academics, museum curators, and other public figures, including the renowned scholar and author Prof. Deborah Lipstadt.
The petition now has some 750 signatories, including the president of Swiss Friends of Yad Vashem, Joel Herzog, the Chief Curator of the Core Exhibition at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw Professor Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett; and Chief Curator of the new permanent exhibition of the Jewish Museum Berlin in Germany Cilly Kugelmann.
Elkin has insisted that Eitam is a “statesmanlike” former public official who, as a former government minister, is well placed to manage the multiple challenges facing Yad Vashem that have arisen in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic.