JERUSALEM- During an unusual public rebuke that took place on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized Major-General Yair Golan over words he said in a speech on Wednesday where on the eve of Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, Golan evoked a dark time in the history of the Jewish people in calling on Israelis to engage in soul-searching.
However, PM Netanyahu, contradicting his defence minister, rebuked Israel’s deputy military chief for signifying that Israeli society was performing actions of Nazi-like behavior, saying “The comparison that arose from the deputy chief of staff’s comments on the processes that characterized Nazi Germany 80 years ago is outrageous.”
The latter added, “They wrong Israeli society and cheapen the Holocaust.”
Nonetheless, this infrequent public scolding of a serving general was the cutting-edge example of Netanyahu taking action that seemed to put him at odds with top brass in a national debate on moral conduct in the conflict with the Palestinians.
In his speech, Golan said “If there’s something that frightens me about Holocaust remembrance it’s the recognition of the nauseating processes that occurred in Europe in general, and particularly in Germany, back then – 70, 80 and 90 years ago – and finding signs of them here among us today in 2016.”
Noting that Golan’s speech made reference to a soldier who shot and killed a wounded Palestinian assailant while he was lying on the ground, in Hebron, in the occupied West Bank, in March, however his words got broadly taken in the sense of comparing some of Israeli’s behavior with that of the Nazis.
Recalling that the Nazis in WW2 killed six million Jews in the Holocaust.
Far-right members of Netanyahu’s governing coalition accused Golan of disgracing those dead and Miri Regev, a cabinet minister from his right-wing Likud party, called on Golan to resign. While PM Netanyahu has not commented on the general’s future and made no public reference to the speech – until the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.
In rebuking Golan, Netanyahu reflected criticism by far-right coalition partners, while distancing himself from Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon of Likud, who issued a statement on Thursday expressing his “total confidence” in the officer and praising commanders who provide a moral compass.
Political opponents have accused Netanyahu of not being supportive of the military over its court-martial of the soldier in the Hebron incident. After the shooting, Israel’s military chief, Gadi Eisenkot, publicly cautioned troops to use only “measured and considered force” against a wave of Palestinian street attacks and said those who deviate from orders would face punishment.
According to an opinion poll, 57 percent of Israelis believed the soldier should never have been arrested. And Netanyahu took the unusual step of telephoning the conscript’s father to say “I understand your distress” and assure him of a fair investigation.