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Israeli lawmaker under fire for comments on West Bank settlers


TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) – An Israeli deputy minister was shot on Thursday for calling residents of an illegal West Bank settlement outpost “sub-human”, sparking an outcry that highlighted the fragility of Israel’s ideologically diverse coalition.

Yair Golan, a former deputy military leader and member of the conciliatory Meretz party, has already sparked a backlash for comments appearing to compare the atmosphere in Israel to that of Nazi-era Germany.

“These are not people, they are subhumans. Despicable people and the corruption of the Jewish people. They should not receive any support, ”Golan told the Knesset channel. “This radical nationalist outburst will bring us disaster.”

Golan, who is deputy economy minister, was referring to settlers from an illegal outpost in the West Bank, which was evacuated as part of Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip but where settlers rebuilt in several times structures. The settlers and their supporters also clashed with Palestinians from neighboring villages. Golan said he was referring to settlers suspected of degrading a nearby Muslim cemetery, which he compared to a “pogrom”.

Tensions are high around the outpost. Last month, a Palestinian gunman opened fire on a car full of Jewish students from the nearby seminary. Yehuda Dimentman, 25, was killed and two others were injured near the Homesh outpost, which the Israeli government considers illegal.

In a separate interview with IDF Radio later Thursday, Golan defended his words but said most West Bank settlers were following the law.

In a tweet, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Golan’s comments were “shocking, a generalization and bordering on blood defamation.” The country’s foreign and defense ministers also condemned the remarks.

Former leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who is now the leader of the opposition, said Golan’s words were “taken directly from Nazi terminology against the Jewish people” and called on Bennett to fire him.

The Firestorm highlights the very different ideologies united under Bennett’s heavy-handed coalition, which was united in an effort to oust former leader Benjamin Netanyahu and very little else. The coalition includes conciliatory parties that support the Palestinian state as well as nationalist parties opposed to the idea and even an Islamist faction.

The parties have agreed not to address issues of division, but their disagreements, especially over Israel’s 54-year occupation of the West Bank, have repeatedly escalated.

The country’s Minister of Public Security, Labor Dovish, also sparked an uproar when he recently criticized settler violence against Palestinians.

Israel captured the West Bank, as well as East Jerusalem, in the Middle East War of 1967 and some 700,000 settlers now live there. The Palestinians want these territories to be part of a future independent state, along with the Gaza Strip.

In a 2016 speech to mark the country’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, Golan said that the Holocaust – in which the Nazis murdered 6 million Jews – should make Israelis “think deeply” about their society.

“If there is something that scares me about remembering the Holocaust, it is to discern the nauseating processes that took place in Europe in general, and in Germany in particular at the time, there is 70, 80 and 90 years old, and to see evidence of it here among us in 2016, ”he said.