Israeli politicians slammed the leader of the far-right Religious Zionist party, Bezalel Smotrich, who on Sunday blamed the Shin Bet security service of being responsible for the assassination of late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Criticism has come both from members of the outgoing government and lawmakers expected to join Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing coalition, who accused Smotrich of spreading conspiracy theories and damaging the agency's reputation.
Avi Dichter, a Likud lawmaker who led the Shin Bet from 2000 to 2005, said he strongly condemned Smotrich's remarks, stressing that they were "out of touch with reality."
"Such comments harm the good reputation of the organization and its staff who work night and day to protect the citizens of Israel," he tweeted.
Speaking at a special Knesset session dedicated to the memory of Rabin, who was assassinated by a young far-right extremist Yigal Amir on November 4, 1995, Smotrich claimed that right-wing rhetoric against Rabin at the time was justified and played a minimal role in inciting his murder.
On the contrary, he argued that the Shin Bet, which is tasked with protecting politicians, was responsible for the tragedy.
"Those who failed to protect Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin were not right-wingers and religious Zionists who rightly decried his government's policies, it was the security services that not only failed to protect him, but also used irresponsible manipulations, which have not been fully disclosed to date, to encourage the murderer to carry out his plan," Smotrich said to the assembly.
The lawmaker remained defiant on Monday morning in the wake of criticism, doubling down that the Shin Bet must take responsibility for spurring on the assassination. "It is not a conspiracy theory," he said.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz responded on Twitter saying that "some leaders" at the time were involved in spreading an "atmosphere of incitement," apparently referring to Netanyahu, who was leading the opposition at the time and supporting right-wing anger against Rabin over his efforts to achieve peace with the Palestinians in exchange for territorial concessions.
"The Shin Bet tried to protect Rabin, learned its lessons, and carried out its role as guardian of public officials in a dedicated and professional manner," Gantz wrote. "The accusations against the Shin Bet are conspiracy theories that should be erased from public discourse and not brought up by leaders and future top ministers."
i24NEWS contributed to this report