Left-wing, ex-general MK spars with Likud after accusing it of sparking violence

‘Where’s the logic in igniting violence with irresponsible declarations of annexation?’ demands former army deputy chief Yair Golan; PM retorts he has ‘gone off the rails’

MK Yair Golan of the Democratic Camp party during a tour of the Knesset, September 25, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Yair Golan of the Democratic Camp party during a tour of the Knesset, September 25, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A former top general turned left-wing MK sparred with the Likud party on Twitter Thursday after accusing the right-wing government’s “irresponsible declarations of annexation” of “igniting” Thursday’s surge in violence.

“All my adult life I’ve fought with the Palestinians. I don’t think they’re saintly or angelic,” said Maj. Gen. (res.) Yair Golan, who was elected to the Knesset in September with the Democratic Camp, which has now into the Labor-Meretz-Gesher party ahead of next month’s elections.

“But which is preferable, to fight or to negotiate? I’d rather sit and negotiate with them. If that doesn’t work, I also know how to fight,” he said in a Thursday interview with Channel 13 television news.

He then lashed the right-wing government’s promise to annex large parts of the West Bank as part of the Trump peace plan, saying such rhetoric was causing “unnecessary tension” and “igniting violence” in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Palestinians clash with Israeli soldiers during a manhunt in Beit Jala after a man who rammed a car into a group of Israeli soldiers earlier in the day, on February 6, 2020. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

“But where’s the logic,” he demanded, “in coming out with a plan that everyone understands is unrealistic, has no chance – and causing with that plan unnecessary tension on the ground, igniting violence with irresponsible declarations of annexation that no one can actually implement and doesn’t intend to implement, including our prime minister, and it all ending with IDF soldiers lying wounded in hospital?”

Asked by the interviewer if he believed “the right is responsible for the terror wave,” Golan replied, “I’m sorry to say – yes.”

The comments drew an angry rebuke from the Likud party, which called Golan’s comments “shameful” and insisted they reflected the view of Likud’s chief opponent in the election, the head of the centrist Blue and White party Benny Gantz.

“According to Yair Golan, Gantz’s natural partner in [forming the next] government, the right is responsible for the terrorism targeting IDF soldiers and Israel’s citizens. Everyone knows that Golan and Gantz will eliminate the ‘Deal of the Century.’ Gantz has no government without Golan and [Joint List MK Ahmad] Tibi. A vote for them is a vote for a fourth round of elections. Only a big Likud can pull the country out of the deadlock and deliver annexation!”

Israeli police officers observe a Palestinian protest against the US peace plan, in Hebron in the southern West Bank on February 6, 2020. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

Taking to Twitter himself, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shared the Likud statement and quipped of Golan, “He’s gone off the rails.”

Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked also chastised Golan, saying the violence wasn’t caused by Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank, but by the Palestinians’ belief that Israel could be destroyed.

“As long as the Palestinians can hope for a future that doesn’t include us, they will continue to fight. Only annexation will clarify to them that there’s no point in fighting,” she said.

Golan in turn called the right-wing responses “hysterical,” and said he’ll “continue to speak the truth.”

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, shakes hands with IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Yair Golan at a ceremony for outstanding soldiers on Israel’s 68th Independence Day celebrations, at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, May 12, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“The Smotrich-Netanyahu government prattled about a dangerous annexation, ignited the violence, and now there are wounded soldiers in hospital. When those who speak the truth are called ‘mentally ill’ [by the prime minister], no wonder that everyone is silent,” he said on Twitter.

“Bibi, [Defense Minister Naftali] Bennett, maybe I’m not quite the leftist you’re used to, but this hysterical screaming from the right doesn’t scare me. I’ll continue to speak the truth.”

Thursday saw a surge in violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank, with three Palestinian attacks on Israeli soldiers and police officers within 12 hours that left 14 service members wounded.

Two members of the Palestinian security services were killed, at least one who was apparently mistaken for a terrorist by an Israeli sniper, in violent confrontations in the northern West Bank city of Jenin.

Israeli troops clash with Palestinians during a manhunt in the West Bank town of Beit Jala on February 6, 2020. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Palestinian leaders have said the violence was an inevitable result of the Trump peace plan’s pro-Israel bias, while Israeli officials accused the Palestinian Authority of encouraging the attacks.

The Israel Defense Forces has been on a heightened state of alert since the publication of the peace plan last week, and has sent three waves of reinforcements to the West Bank, including an additional battalion of combat troops on Thursday.

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