JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rebuked his vice premier, Moshe Ya’alon, for calling Peace Now "a virus."
Netanyahu cut short a family vacation to meet with Ya’alon Thursday night in Tel Aviv. Ya’alon reportedly told the prime minister that his remarks were "misinterpreted."
"The remarks made by Minister Ya’alon are unacceptable, neither in their essence nor in their style, and do not represent the government’s stance," Netanyahu said in a statement.
Ya’alon, who is Israel’s Minister for Strategic Affairs, made the remarks during a meeting last week of the Likud’s so-called Jewish Leadership faction, headed by Moshe Feiglin. Ya’alon also said he was "not afraid of the Americans," and, "In my opinion, Jews can and must be in every corner of the Land of Israel." Video clips of the meeting recorded on a cell phone were leaked to Israel’s Channel 2.
Ya’alon’s office said the minister stands behind his remarks. In a statement released to the media, his office said, "The minister’s opinions are known, clear and were written explicitly in his book — and he stands behind them."
Peace Now General Secretary Yariv Oppenheimer called Ya’alon’s statements "dangerous" and said "They mark Peace Now as a target," according to the organization’s Web site.
Ya’alon served as the IDF Chief of Staff from 2002 to 2005.