A former member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Cabinet offered a rare public apology Sunday for contributing to the internal strife in Israel that preceded the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants from the Gaza Strip.
The mea culpa by Galit Distel Atbaryan, a lawmaker from Netanyahu’s Likud Party, was one of the first times a Likud member has accepted responsibility for the polarized atmosphere ahead of the attack, which triggered a devastating war that has continued for nearly three months.
Distel Atbaryan appeared to accept the argument that the internal divisions created perceptions of weakness that encouraged Hamas to attack.
“I’m here sitting and telling you, the democratic, secular public: I sinned against you, I caused pain for you, I caused you to fear for your lives here, and I am sorry for this,” she told Channel 13 TV.
Distel Atbaryan added that she was taking responsibility for her role in the massive protests and civil discord that erupted after Netanyahu’s right-wing government attempted to implement a far-reaching overhaul of the judicial system. The crisis sparked mass protests, alarmed business leaders and former security chiefs, and drew concern from the United States and other close allies.
“I was one of those people that caused the state to be weakened, that harmed people,” she said. “I created a split, I created a rift, and I created tension. And this tension brought weakness. And this weakness, in many ways, brought massacre.”
Distel Atbaryan, who served as public diplomacy minister, was one of Netanyahu’s strongest supporters and drew attention for her harsh criticism of his opponents.
But days after the Oct. 7 attack, she resigned when it was clear that other government ministries were handling her responsibilities.
Distel Atbaryan said the office was a “waste of public funds” during wartime. She has remained as a member of parliament in the Likud.