Lawmaker labels protesters calling for elections 'an arm of Hamas", then backtracks

Deputy Knesset speaker from Netanyahu's Likud party says demonstrators are the arm that supports and helps Hamas; later says his words were taken out of context

i24NEWS, Moran Azulay, Shilo Freid|
In a provocative statement during a radio on Tuesday, Deputy Knesset Speaker MK Nissim Vaturi (Likud) labeled protesters calling for new elections, as an extension of Hamas.
"Hamas has several arms – the militant arm of the damned terrorists who attacked and killed children, and there is the arm of the demonstrations that supports and helps Hamas," Vaturi said. "After all, who would benefit from this pressure in a more violent and brutal way than Hamas? There are people who care about the country – and it is not those who are shouting at the Kaplan protests. We know that they don't care about anything, because who demonstrates in such a way during a war?" he said.
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ניסים ואטורי, הפגנות בירושלים
ניסים ואטורי, הפגנות בירושלים
Protesters calling for elections, Nissim Vaturi
(Photo: Avi Hai, Amit Shabi)
The remarks sparked immediate condemnation from the organizations behind the weekly protests that have grown in number in recent weeks. The protesters have been demanding an immediate release of hostages held in Gaza and have been calling for new elections, that would ouster Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right and religious coalition that they say was responsible for the failings leading up to and on October 7.
Of Vaturi's remarks they said he was inciting violence and making opponents of Netanyahu fair game for attack.
Opposition lawmaker Orit Farkash-Hacohen complained to the Knesset ethics committee claiming he was inciting violence and degrading the honor of the parliament. There was no comment from Netanyahu's Likud party or the prime minister's office.
On Monday, protesters demonstrated outside the Knesset where legislation has been underway to strengthen the exemption of ultra-Orthodox men from military service while extending the service of reservists to meet the military needs brought on by the war. They later marched to Netanyahu's residents where some blocked the road and clashed with police.
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מהומות בירושלים בהפגנות נגד הממשלה
מהומות בירושלים בהפגנות נגד הממשלה
Anti-government protest in Jerusalem
(Photo: Abir Sultan / EPA)
The proposed legislation was brought to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday where chairman Yuli Edelstein said he would not allow it to proceed as it stands, because it ignores the needs of the IDF since the outbreak of the war.
Vaturi who claimed his words were taken out of context, was also criticized by members of his own party who also compared them to accusations made by Opposition leader Yair Lapid on Saturday, when he said Netanyahu was celebrating his parliamentary success over the legislation while families were being informed of their sons being killed in the fighting in Gaza.
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