“You’re a coward,” the father of the wounded soldier told Prime Minister Bennett.
By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett faced heavy criticism, including from former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for fudging a phone call to the family of an Israeli soldier who was gravely wounded on Saturday.
Barel Shmueli, a Border Police sniper, was shot in the head at point blank range during violent protests at the Gaza Strip border wall. After undergoing a number of emergency surgeries, he remains hospitalized in critical condition at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.
Wrong name, no context
Shmueli’s parents, Yossi and Nitza, expressed their displeasure over Bennett’s call, in which they said he was unfocused and did not know basic details about their son.
“I have a recorded conversation between Prime Minister Bennett and the father of [the wounded soldier] Barel,” Nitza Shmueli told Radio 103FM.
“With the help of God, my son will rise to his feet. This conversation will be broadcast all over the world. Not in Israel – all over the world.
“Mr. Bennett called at 10:30 p.m. and asked Barel’s father, whose name is Yossi: ‘How is Yossi? How does he feel?’ He said to him, his name is Barel. ‘Oh, sorry. How does he feel?’ Does the prime minister need to call to ask how he is feeling? Where are you? Where! Where is the chief of staff?”
She added that neither Bennett nor Defense Minister Benny Gantz had come to visit her son in the hospital.
But former premier Netanyahu, Shmueli said, called from his vacation on billionaire Larry Ellison’s private island in Hawaii, to extend his sympathies, and was acutely aware of the family’s situation.
“Benjamin Netanyahu called at midnight, with questions and well wishes. He cried on the phone, he cried.
“He knew every detail, asked about his surgeries. Mr. Bennett didn’t even know his name [and] asked which hospital he was in. What an embarrassment.”
‘What, are you scared?’
In a recording of the call between Yossi Shmueli and Bennett, released by Israeli hip-hop star and right-wing political activist The Shadow, the soldier’s father can be heard bashing the prime minister.
Accusing Bennett of being soft on Hamas, Shmueli posited that the prime minister was holding off on a response due to pressure from Ra’am coalition kingmaker Mansour Abbas.
“Do you not know how to make decisions? What, are you scared? Wake up. Who are you scared of? Abbas? You’re a coward. You and your whole government are cowards! Do something…What do you have to answer me, Mr. Prime Minister?
“Come. We’re not people that do pogroms or things like they do to our soldiers. Come. Be a man. Come visit your soldier. Take responsibility already.”
Netanyahu vs. Bennett
Netanyahu posted about the phone call debacle on his Facebook page, writing underneath a link to an Israel Hayom article on Bennett’s mishandling of the call, “Disgraceful. Pray for the recovery of Barel Hadaria Shmueli.”
But after facing criticism for politicizing the incident, Netanyahu walked back on his statement, editing out the word “disgraceful.”
“Netanyahu made political use of the soldier’s injury, and immediately removed the post when he realized it was inappropriate,” Likud MK David Bitan told Radio 103 FM Radio.
He said he believed that “Bennett was not ready for the call and he went into shock from the father’s reaction.”
Bennett released a public apology to the Shmueli family for the call, acknowledging the “mix-up between the two names” and saying it “was a mistake.”
“I would like to express my sincere apology for this,” he said, adding that Israelis should pray for Shmueli’s recovery.