Likud Minister Yoav Gallant on Saturday accused left-wing figures in Israel of being ideological descendants of Soviet leaders, charging they believe any means were acceptable toward replacing Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister.
“Whoever suckled, like the Israeli left, the legacy of [Joseph] Stalin and [Vladimir] Lenin understands well that for them the ends always justify the means,” Gallant, who heads the Immigration Ministry, said at a cultural event in the central city of Modiin.
Scholars estimate that more than 1 million people were executed in Communist leader Stalin’s political purges and millions more died in the vast prison camp system or as a result of starvation.
Gallant did not single out any specific party but his comment was strongly rejected by a member of the Benny Gantz-led Blue and White party, which has emerged as the main electoral threat to Netanyahu’s Likud and whose leaders have regularly been branded “leftists” by the premier.
“[This is] another example of the insane incitement and the wicked campaign by Likud. A minister in Israel compares his political opponents to Stalin, who led a regime of terror against all his opponents, including the use of torture and murder,” MK and Blue and White member Meir Cohen said in a statement.
“Apparently the pressure on Likud really is skyrocketing. Apologize immediately Yoav,” Cohen added, apparently referring to Netanyahu’s warning Friday that Likud could lose to Blue and White by four or five seats.
Gallant’s remarks come just days before Israeli go to the polls on April 9, with parties ramping up their campaigns in a final push to win votes.
The election campaign has largely been characterized by mudslinging and the trading of harsh accusations between political rivals, with Likud running videos questioning the former military chief Gantz’s sanity and calling him a “weak leftist.”
Continuing the criticism of Gantz, Gallant slammed the Blue and White leader over his lack of political experience.
“The main problem to me is his gall to come and say ‘I’ll lead the State of Israel’ before he had even a moment in public life,” Gallant said.
“I think this is impertinence. [You] don’t allow a [medical] intern to perform open heart surgery,” he added.
Former IDF general Gallant has previously been highly critical of Gantz, who was chosen as military chief after his own nomination was scuttled over allegations he appropriated public land adjacent to his home.
He was later partially cleared over the allegations and entered politics in 2015 as a member of the center-right Kulanu party, before jumping ship to Likud in January.