Veteran journalist Gadi Sukenik provoked outrage Monday when he insisted that Likud lawmakers and those who vote for them are less intelligent and less cultured that others.
Sukenik’s remarks prompted a wave of responses from Likud Knesset members who accused him of racism and incitement.
Likud party leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu called the remarks “condescending and outrageous” and said they followed “years of incitement” by “leftists against Likud voters.”
“This racism crosses all lines,” he tweeted, calling on Sukenik to apologize.
The opposition leader praised his party’s voters as “smart and sharp, Zionists and patriots with hearts of gold.”
Fellow Likud party member Israel Katz called Sukenik “pathetic,” tweeting that he and other leftist members of the media demean themselves “when they become delusional and seek attention by lashing out at Likud people. How sad.”
Another senior Likud MK, Yuli Edelstein, said Sukenik’s “horror show” was not an isolated incident, and insisted that Likud was “a people’s party” that represents all segments of society.
Likud’s MK Miri Regev also accused Sukenik of “incitement,” tweeting “I scorn you.”
Supporters and members of right-wing Likud have long accused the media of leaning to the left of Israeli politics.
Speaking to Channel 13 news, Sukenik, a television host and former primetime anchor, said that Likud members and voters have “a lower level of intelligence, culture, and dialogue” than those of the centrist Yesh Atid party.
When challenged by the show’s hosts on whether he was suggesting that Likud MKs are less intelligent than their Yesh Atid peers, Sukenik doubled down, saying “Take a look at the people.”
He said Likud lawmakers had for years been leading “shouting and verbal violence” in the Knesset.
Likud MK Yoav Gallant offered to take an IQ test and compare his results with those of any Yesh Atid lawmaker of Sukenik’s choosing.
“Don’t be a small-minded racist,” he tweeted to Sukenik.
The clash came as election fever grips Israel, with the Knesset set to vote Monday on dispersing itself, triggering elections likely to be held around the beginning of November.
It will be the fifth round of elections Israel has held in the space of four years.