(JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized for harshly criticizing Israel’s media and political class for not condemning an alleged rape of a young Jewish woman by three Palestinian men, which police say was nationalistically motivated.
In a apology posted on his Hebrew-language Facebook page Friday, Netanyahu suggested his critical remarks were premature, and thus “inappropriate.” He explained that initial reports of the alleged rape “caused me deep pain and profound shock.”
The alleged rape occurred on May 11, the eve of Israeli Independence Day, in southern Tel Aviv, the NRG news website reported. The victim accused two Palestinians in their 20s and another Palestinian minor of raping her. The minor and another suspect are under arrest and deny any wrongdoing. A third suspect implicated in the case is at large. Some details of the affair are subject to a gag order.
The news site reported that the alleged attackers used “racist language” during the act, which one of the attackers filmed using a smartphone. The victim, 20, reportedly was visiting her aunt in the same building where the men were living. She entered the men’s apartment at their invitation, the report said. At least one of the men relieved himself on the victim, according to the police.
Netanyahu wrote on his Hebrew-language Facebook page Thursday: “This is a shocking crime that requires unanimous condemnations, yet such condemnation was not heard – not in the media and not across the political spectrum. We can only imagine what would have happened if the roles were reversed. We will make the ones involved in this cruel act pay the full price, and exercise the full extent of penalties set in law.”
On Friday, Netanyahu apologized for his original post, which he said “was inappropriate before the investigation is exhausted. I regret this action.”
Other officials criticized the police for waiting nearly a week to divulge details about the case and then only following Netanyahu’s Thursday post. Michal Rozin, a lawmaker for the left-wing Meretz party, pointed to the police’s failure to offer information earlier, calling it an attempt to hide the case from the public even though some of its details were not subject to a gag order.
She wrote a letter to Interior Security Minister Gilad Erdan asking for an explanation. “This practice of concealment is unacceptable and, I regret to say, a serious infringement on proper procedure,” she wrote. Rozin asked Erdan to look into possible police negligence or malpractice.
Rozin also took to Facebook to criticize Netanyahu’s reaction to the incident, which she said was used by Netanyahu “for political ends, to foment hatred and dissent.“