Labor leader Yitzhak Herzog
Labor leader Yitzhak Herzog Miriam Alster/Flash 90

After facing a backlash from Likud ministers - and the Prime Minister, himself - over his call on the Israeli government to absorb Syrian refugees, opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog responded angrily to detractors. 

"You've forgotten what it means to be Jews. Refugees. Persecuted," Herzog charged on Facebook. "The prime minister of the Jewish people does not close his heart and the gate when people are fleeing for their lives from persecution, with their babies in their hands."

Speaking at the weekly "Shabbatarbut" event in Tel Aviv on Saturday, the Zionist Union chairman urged the government to begin absorbing refugees from the devastating war in Syria. 

"Jews cannot be indifferent when hundreds of thousands of refugees are searching for a safe haven," Herzog asserted. 

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin slammed Herzog's proposal as "populist" and "irresponsible," warning that absorbing refugees from an enemy state would both harm national interests and create a demographic imbalance.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, meanwhile, suggested that Herzog should offer to house the refugees himself. 

At his weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asserted that while Israel was not "indifferent" to the plight of Syrian refugees, it simply was too small a country to absorb them into the Jewish state's borders.

Herzog blasted Netanyahu's reasoning, charging that "Menachem Begin, who immediately absorbed within his first government refugees from Vietnam, is turning over in his grave."

"I suggest looking responsibly on reality, and to bring in - in coordination with international efforts - a controlled and limited number of refugees, for humanitarian reasons, thereby saving our Druze brothers who are being slaughtered in Syria and are in terrible distress."

In 1977, Menachem Begin granted special permits to 66 Vietnamese refugees fleeing the war ravaging their country.