Former IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz lashed out Monday at two members of the ruling Likud party for criticizing the Shin Bet last weel, after the internal security agency called for rolling back security measures placed at the Temple Mount in the wake of a deadly July 14 attack at the Jerusalem holy site.
In an interview with Army Radio, Halutz castigated Culture Minister Miri Regev and coalition chairman David Bitan for their recent comments, saying they had yet to fully evolve from apes into humans.
“These people do not understand their ability to express their opinion is thanks to the ‘delusional’ and ‘cowardly’ agency,” Halutz said, referring to the critical remarks made by Regev and Bitan, respectively.
“They were the ones who enabled them to get where they are,” he added. “It’s said that humans evolved from apes, but it seems there are some public officials in Israel who have yet to complete the transition.”
Bitan had called the organization’s officials “cowards” for pushing for the removal of metal detectors that had been installed at the entrances to the Temple Mount compound following a July 14 attack in which three Arab Israeli gunmen shot dead two Israeli police officers with weapons they had smuggled onto the site.
Israel briefly shut the compound and reopened it two days later with the new security installations in place, including metal detectors and cameras. The measures were met with near-daily protests by Palestinians in and around East Jerusalem and in the West Bank, and a boycott by Muslim worshipers who refused to pray at the site, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock sanctuary, until the measures were removed.
Facing heavy pressure from Jordan, which administers the site, and the Palestinians, Israel removed the installations on Thursday and worshipers later prayed at the site.
The decision to place metal detectors and other security measures at the gates of the Temple Mount after the attack was opposed by the Shin Bet, which warned the move could spark widespread unrest.
Speaking after a July 21 terror attack in the West Bank settlement of Halamish, where a Palestinian terrorist had stabbed to death three members of a family claiming his motive was the situation on the Mount, Regev called the Shin Bet’s recommendation to remove the metal detectors “delusional.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Opposition leader Isaac Herzog and other lawmakers defended the Shin Bet against Bitan and Regev’s criticism.
Regev, who served as IDF spokesperson under Halutz during Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005 and the 2006 Lebanon War, came out swinging against her former boss for his remarks later on Monday.
“His comments don’t surprise me, they exposed his character. The remark on Darwinism was not a slip of the tongue. It’s distorted, racist and a dangerous worldview that must be condemned,” she said in a statement, adding that his “arrogance and insolence made him a failed chief of staff.”
“I repeat my criticism of the security agency that is believed ‘to never be wrong,'” Regev added. “The defense establishment must provide security and leave policy-making to elected officials.”
Halutz is no stranger to controversy. After ordering the assassination of Hamas operative Salah Shehadeh in 2002 in an airstrike on a densely populated neighborhood in Gaza City, Halutz was criticized for saying he “sleeps well at night,” even though 14 civilians were killed. His remark elicited a backlash from left-wing lawmakers, who petitioned the Supreme Court against his appointment as chief of staff in 2005.