Former minister and Netanyahu loyalist says she has ‘burning anger’ against PM

Galit Distel Atbaryan tells anti-government activist that the government is responsible for October 7, premier allowed Hamas and Hezbollah to flourish

File - Then-public diplomacy minister Galit Distel Atbaryan speaks at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on August 16, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
File - Then-public diplomacy minister Galit Distel Atbaryan speaks at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on August 16, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Former public diplomacy minister Galit Distel Atbaryan lashed out at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying she had developed a “burning” anger toward him and that his government’s days were numbered.

Distel Atbaryan, a member of Netanyahu’s government and the Likud party, made the comments in a private WhatsApp conversation with anti-government activist Or Sujonov that was posted to social media on Wednesday evening.

“I have a great anger toward Netanyahu, fury that is burning me from inside,” she wrote.

“The things I have to say on Netanyahu, I will say, believe me, but not during wartime,” Distel Atbaryan wrote, and added, “The bottom line is, we were at the helm and the country is in a terrible state. We certainly bear responsibility — that’s why I resigned right after the heavy shake-up of that black Saturday” of October 7, when Hamas launched its devastating shock onslaught.

“The days of this government are numbered, that’s obvious. I hope that out of the destruction something newer and healthy will be established, otherwise we are done for,” she continued.

In her messages to Sujonov, the former minister explained that seeing how Hamas had flourished in Gaza alongside Hezbollah in Lebanon was the final straw. “I am no longer a member of the government, I resigned. I have been holding back my personal anger at Netanyahu for several months,” she said. “The outrage at the monsters in the north and the south that grew under his government is what broke me and made me resign.”

“Netanyahu is a rounded and complex figure,” she added. “He is not the devil that you describe, and it turns out that he is not the angel I once valued either.”

(From left) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Minister Benny Gantz hold a joint press conference at the Ministry of Defense, in Tel Aviv, on November 11, 2023. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Distel Atbaryan, a firebrand who made a name for herself as a right-wing commentator and Netanyahu loyalist, quit her post as public diplomacy minister five days after the start of the war brought on by the Hamas rampage in southern Israel, which killed some 1,200 Israelis, most of them civilians, and saw some 240 hostages dragged to Gaza.

At the time, she said that the government was sidelining her powers and that the Diaspora Affairs Ministry had more than enough resources and manpower.

The Likud politician had faced significant criticism since entering the post, in particular over her use of the office to heavily promote the government’s judicial overhaul as well as her history of incendiary remarks.

In the days after October 7 and prior to her resignation, she was also the subject of sharp censure over her ministry’s seeming lack of activity as Israel faced its worst attack in decades.

While Distel Atbaryan told Sujonov that she would be ready to speak unreservedly about Netanyahu once the war was over, she voiced opposition to the calls for him to resign, which have redoubled since October 7.

“Netanyahu has a large political interest in bringing us to victory, so I’m not afraid that he will take foreign considerations into account. With all his flaws, he is the only one at the moment who can withstand this extreme pressure without collapsing.

“He has international capabilities that no one else in the political arena has, and this is critical now. Any initiative to topple him in the midst of the most difficult war Israel has ever known will weaken Israel in the eyes of the enemy,” she said.

In her post accompanying the screenshots of her conversation with Distel Atbaryan, Sijonov admitted that she had been unsure whether or not to share what had been said.

“I debated for a long time whether or not to publish this conversation,” she said. “Some false atmosphere of sincerity that felt based on trust or friendship almost stopped me. But there is nothing personal here. Galit Distal Atbaryan is part of the poison machine that is destroying Israeli society, and that’s all there is to it.

“I don’t know why she responded to me,” Sijonov continued. “I can only hope that this is her strange way of atoning for her sins. Perhaps the publication of these words will strengthen the battle to remove the criminal and his accomplices and to establish an emergency government — now.”

Following the publication of the exchange, Distel Atbaryan on Thursday appeared to seek to temper her criticism of Netanyahu.

“I’ve been asking myself since last night what came over me,” she told the pro-Netanyahu Channel 14 network. “There is no other person in politics who could withstand this situation like him. It was a terrible mistake in judgement to speak openly with the girl who published the correspondence.”

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