Environment Minister Avi Gabay
Environment Minister Avi GabayMarc Israel Sellem/POOL

Environment Minister Avi Gabay (Kulanu) on Saturday appeared to back last week’s controversial statement by IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan, who asserted during a Yom Hashoah ceremony that he recognizes in Israel processes similar to those that occurred in Nazi Germany, before clarifying his comments.

Speaking at an event in Petah Tikva, Gabay said, "Major General Yair Golan has enough rights that we should listen to him and not attack him. The uproar around Golan is out of place. We should encourage senior officials to say their own truth and not vice versa.”

While Gabay said he agreed with Golan that there are “signs of racism” in Israel, he stressed that he did not believe Golan actually meant to say that the atmosphere in Israel was similar to that of Nazi Germany.

“I do not believe he was actually referring to World War II and the Holocaust. There's nothing similar between what happens here and the Holocaust, but certainly there are signs of racism which are often similar to that of Germany of the 1920s and 1930s,” Gabay said.

Golan’s remarks were met with sharp criticism from the right side of the political spectrum soon after they were made, while leftists defended him, suggesting that while his phrasing was imperfect, his message was valid.

Following the criticism, Golan clarified that he did not mean to draw comparisons to Nazi Germany.

“The comparison is absurd and totally baseless,” he said, “and it was never my intention to make such a comparison or to make criticisms of the political leadership. The IDF is a moral army that maintains a purity of arms and respects human dignity.”