Defense Minister Benny Gantz, leader of the National Unity party, was heckled by far-right activists during a visit to the Western Wall on the night before Tuesday’s national election.
Gantz arrived at the holy site with fellow party lawmaker Chili Tropper, who is religiously observant. The two men were jeered by dozens of mostly teenagers. In a video of the incident published on social media, the group can be heard shouting “murderer” and “failure” as the men arrive.
It has become a political tradition for many Jewish politicians to visit the Western Wall on the eve of a national election.
“While we were praying for the peace of the nation, they shouted ‘murderers’ and ‘there is blood on your hands,’ at us,” said Tropper in a statement. “They also shouted at Benny: ‘Why did you abandon the soldiers of Golani?'”
Tropper, the culture minister, said he doubted that many of the youth, who appeared to be largely Haredi, “served or will even serve in the IDF, but with waves of hatred and incitement they dare to call the defense minister and [former] IDF chief of staff a murderer who abandons soldiers.”
On Monday, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu accused Gantz of “endangering the lives of Golani soldiers in order not to hurt Palestinians” when he served as the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces.
קללות במקום הקדוש: השר גנץ הגיע להתפלל בכותל והותקף בקללות "רוצח" pic.twitter.com/svq7p0QZQW
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Golani is a storied and prominent IDF infantry brigade. The opposition leader was referring to an incident during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, in which the military waited for Palestinian civilians to evacuate before destroying a target in the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu’s comments provoked a sharp response from Gantz, who called the former prime minister a “liar” who “is incapable of saying a single true word.”
Tropper said Tuesday that the hecklers on Monday evening were directly influenced by Netanyahu’s comments.
“Yesterday, Netanyahu and his wife concocted a false story about Gantz… At night at the Western Wall, excited young people echoed the lie. There’s a direct line between the two,” said Tropper.
“In the face of this desecration of God’s name and in the face of this hatred, we cannot be silent,” added the culture minister.