The brother of a Druze border policeman who bled to death in 2000 after he was shot in clashes with Palestinians demanded Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stop using the controversial circumstances of his sibling’s death as political fodder to attack political rival Benny Gantz.
Mahdi Yousef protested after Netanyahu’s personal Facebook page published a video that included a recording of comments Yousef had made last month about Gantz’s role in the death of his brother, Madhat Yousef, who died awaiting an IDF rescue in the first week of the Second Intifada in October 2000.
At the time, Gantz was regional commander for the West Bank, which includes the Joseph’s Tomb compound, where Madhat Yousef died. Gantz later went on to become IDF chief of staff.
Mahdi Yousef accused the prime minister of “dancing on Madhat’s grave,” Channel 12 news reported, saying that the family had even considered filing a lawsuit over the video.
“I request that the prime minister stop this cheap propaganda, and we don’t want Madhat’s name to be brought into politics,” Yousef said in a statement.
“It is even more revolting that for the sake of cheap politics they are dancing on Madhat’s grave,” he added.
In the Hebrew-language video published on Netanyahu’s personal Facebook page, Yousef is heard saying that Gantz is not suitable to be prime minister because of his handling of the 2000 incident.
“Anyone who abandons a wounded soldier can abandon the country,” Yousef said in January, speaking out against Gantz’s newly launched political campaign. “It wasn’t just Madhat, 13 soldiers were abandoned — that is Gantz, Benny Gantz. That is [someone] unsuited to become prime minister.”
The video then includes a short undated clip of Gantz speaking in English, apparently about the Joseph’s Tomb incident.
“I was there on the ground,” Gantz says. “I feel proud that I was on the right side morally.”
The clip finishes with a slogan calling Gantz the “weak left.”
Gantz, who was approved to be army chief by Netanyahu’s cabinet in 2011, is seen as the most credible rival to the prime minister and his ruling Likud party in the coming April 9 elections.
During the nomination process for Gantz to take over as the IDF’s top officer in 2011, a selection committee took into consideration the Joseph’s Tomb incident, ruling that Gantz was not directly responsible, and that it should not prevent him from taking command of the army.
The Yousef family had objected to Gantz’s nomination but at the time a letter was sent to them on behalf of Netanyahu explaining the committee’s ruling.
בני גנץ – שמאל. חלש.
Posted by Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו on Monday, 11 February 2019
The letter cited from the committee findings and stated that the 2000 incident “does not amount to any fault on [Gantz’s] part and does not prevent him being appointed the Chief of Staff.”
Madhat Yousef was shot at 4 p.m. on October 1, 2000, and bled to death over the next four hours while IDF commanders declined to launch a rescue effort, relying instead on continued promises by the Palestinian Preventive Security Service that it would carry out the rescue.
The failure to rescue Yousef — his body was ultimately removed from the compound by Palestinian forces at 9:30 p.m. and handed over to the IDF — has drawn repeated criticism in the years since. An IDF inquiry after the incident found that commanders in the field had acted correctly, in keeping with their orders, but the experience nevertheless contributed to the IDF’s decision in the ensuing months to end the policy of reliance on security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority.
Gantz was one of the commanders in charge of events on that day. A brigadier general at the time, he commanded the West Bank forces from a command post less than kilometer from Joseph’s Tomb during the incident.