JERUSALEM, Aug 19 (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu interrupted his summer holiday to say on Wednesday he would summon a senior minister who described left-wing opponents of Jewish settlement building as a "virus".
Netanyahu’s office issued a statement after Israel’s Channel 2 television broadcast video footage in which Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon was shown making the remark to a forum of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party.
"Whenever the politicians bring us the peace dove, we as the army have to go in and clean up after them," Yaalon, a former military chief and also a minister of strategic affairs, said.
Replying to a question as to how Yaalon would "rescue" Israel, an allusion to U.S. President Barack Obama’s demands to halt settlement construction in occupied land, Yaalon said:
"We are dealing again with a situation where the virus, which is Peace Now, and if you will, the elites, their damage is very great" and that Jews should be permitted to live "forever in all parts of Israel," which would include the West Bank.
Peace Now, a watchdog that lobbies against building Jewish enclaves in territory Israel captured in a 1967 war, argues it is against Israel’s security interests to control Palestinians seeking a state, is often the butt of rightist criticism.
Netanyahu’s office said the Israeli leader had plans to "summon Minister Yaalon for a private meeting" once he returns from vacation.
Yariv Oppenheimer, a Peace Now leader, called Yaalon’s remarks "dangerous and unacceptable" and part of a "government campaign to try and delegitimise left-wing views in the eyes of Israelis."