Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted Israel's deputy chief of military staff on Sunday for drawing similarities between the "sickening processes" of pre-Nazi Germany in the 1920s and 1930s and present-day Israel.

Netanyahu called Yair Golan's comparison, which was made on Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day, "infuriating" and "unacceptable."

In a speech Wednesday night at a ceremony to mark the somber day, Golan said: "If there is something that frightens me about the memory of the Holocaust, it's identifying sickening processes that occurred in Europe in general and in Germany specifically, then 70, 80 and 90 years ago - and to find evidence of this here, amongst us, today."

He said he was referring to intolerance and xenophobia, among other problems.

If the Jewish Day of Atonement was a day for private soul-searching, then "it is desired and even necessary that Holocaust Day will be a day of national soul-searching," he said.

The remarks created a storm of controversy in Israel, with right-wing politicians demanding an apology.

Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday that Golan's remarks were "fundamentally incorrect" and "do injustice to Israeli society and cause a belittling of the Holocaust." 

Miri Regev, the outspoken hardline sport and culture minister, demanded Sunday he be ousted from his post.

By contrast, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon last week backed the major general, expressing his "full trust" in Golan and calling the interpretation of his remarks "distorted."

Israeli Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog, in turn, denounced Netanyahu for publicly slamming the deputy chief of staff.

"The attempt to reign terror and silence IDF (Israel Defence Force) officers is dangerous and unprecedented," tweeted Herzog.

A retired former general, Giora Eiland, also defended Golan, calling him "courageous" and the outpouring of criticism against him "another manifestation of the intolerance" within right-wing Israeli society against any opinions outside consensus.

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