Bennett: 'Problematic DNA' Remark Not Directed at Foreign Ministry Employees

After criticism from Prime Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Ministry employees, who demanded an apology, education minister seeks to make amends.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at a podium, December 2015.
Ofer Vaknin

Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Saturday clarified comments he made on Friday, in which he attacked Foreign Ministry employees, questioning whether they had "problematic DNA" and hinting that they were unpatriotic. 

Bennett's broadside, which came during a radio interview on Friday morning and led to condemnation by Israeli diplomats and by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was apparently sparked by the activities of former Foreign Ministry director general Alon Liel. Media reports say Liel is active in promoting an international boycott of Israel, as a means of bringing an end to the occupation.

"Minister Bennett's remarks in the interview were directed at those who act against Israel, like Alon Liel, the former director general of the Foreign Ministry," Bennett's office said in a statement on Saturday. 

"It's clear that Foreign Ministry employees completely disavow his conduct and are working diligently and relentlessly for the State of Israel, in uneasy times for the state, as their complete disavowal of Liel's statements goes to show." 

Bennett's statement came shortly after the Foreign Ministry employees' union released a sharp indictment of the education minister, saying that his "twisted remarks" questioned the civil servants' loyalty to the state, its institutions and its government. 

"The outrageous remarks by lone pensioners, former Foreign Ministry employees, are no excuse for a unconstrained attack by a cabinet minister against  the dedicated workers of the Foreign Ministry. We view the remarks with great severity, and therefore instruct all Foreign Ministry employees to refuse to cooperate with Minister Bennett until he clarifies his statements and apologizes," said the union's statement.