TEL AVIV (Aug. 14)
Arab mayors are demanding the dismissal of Major Gen. Avigdor Ben-Gal as commander of the Northern District despite his apology for a statement he was alleged to have made questioning the loyalty of Israeli Arabs.
Ben-Gal was reprimanded by Defense Minister Ezer Weizman last week after he was quoted as telling a group of Knesset members Thursday that the Arabs of the Galilee were “a cancer in the body of the nation” and were waiting for the moment “when they can screw us.”
A Davar correspondent, who recorded the general’s comments, backed Ben-Gal’s claim that he had not used the word “cancer” but had said that the neglect of the Golan Heights is a malady in Israel’s body. Ben-Gal said he did not mean to link this comment with the Galilee Arabs.
WEIZMAN REPRIMANDS BEN-GAL
Defense Ministry sources said that Weizman, after reprimanding Ben-Gal, made it clear that the Galilee Arabs are Israeli citizens and no one has a right to cast doubts on them. He also made it clear that it is the government which will decide whether to establish more settlements on the Golan Heights. Ben-Gal had also been quoted as telling the MKs that there was no more room on the Golan for additional Jewish settlements.
The Regional Council of Jewish Settlements in the Galilee had earlier issued a statement defending Ben-Gal. “What the general is alleged to have said may have been said in a rough way, but in essence they are true, “the Council said.
Ben-Gal, who claimed he did not know reporters were present when he discussed security matters with the MKs, was defended by some MKs but was strongly attacked by others. Druze MK Zeiden Atashi of the Democratic Movement demanded his dismissal. Another Democratic Movement MK, Shmuel Toledano, an advisor to the Premier on Arab affairs in the former Labor governments, said Ben-Gal was apparently ignorant of the enormous damage his remarks have caused Israel both inside and outside the country. He said the number of disloyal Arabs was minor compared to the majority who are loyal to the State.