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Yair Golan

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Yair Golan
יאיר גולן
Golan in 2022 at a protest against the illegal outpost of Evyatar[1]
Ministerial roles
2021–2022Deputy Minister of Economy
Faction represented in the Knesset
2019–2020Democratic Union
Other roles
2024–Leader of the Labor Party
Personal details
Born (1962-05-14) 14 May 1962 (age 62)
Rishon LeZion, Israel
Political partyLabor Party (since 2024)
Other political
Israel Democratic Party (2019–2020)
Democratic Choice (2020)
Meretz (2020–2024)
Military service
AllegianceIsrael Israel
Branch/service Israel Defense Forces
Years of service1980–2018
Rank Aluf (Major General)

Yair Golan (Hebrew: יאיר גולן; born 14 May 1962) is an Israeli politician and senior military officer. He served as the Deputy Minister of Economy in the Thirty-sixth Israeli government,[2] and served as a Member of the Knesset representing Meretz from 2019–2022.[3] He is a reserve major general (Aluf) in the Israel Defense Forces. During his military service he served, among other roles, as the IDF Deputy Chief of Staff,[4] Commander of the Home Front Command and Commander of the Northern Command.[5][6] In May 2024, Golan was elected leader of the Israeli Labor Party.[7]


Early life[edit]

Golan was born and raised in Rishon LeZion. His father, Gershon Goldner, fled with his parents from Nazi Germany to Mandatory Palestine in 1935.[8] His father served in the IDF and his last role was a senior technical assistant to the chief communications and electronics officer at the rank of lieutenant colonel (Sgan Aluf).[9] His mother, Rachel, was born in Tel Aviv[10] to Aryeh Rapoport, who immigrated from Ukraine in 1921,[11] and Hana, born in moshav Nachalat Yehuda, now a part of Rishon LeZion.[12] His elder brother is a Geography and History professor in the University of Haifa[13] and his younger sister is a special-education teacher in the Shamir Medical Center.[14]

Golan studied at Haviv Elementary School and "Yadlin" School in Rishon LeZion and Ort Singalovsky School in Tel Aviv.[15] Golan was the head of the "nest council" (one rank above instructors) of Rishon LeZion in the leftist Labour Zionist youth movement Working and Studying Youth.[16]

Military service[edit]

Golan as commander of the Home Front Command
Yair Golan in Lebanon during his military service
Street art of Yair Golan in honor of his heroism during the 2023 Hamas-led attack on Israel

Golan was drafted into the IDF in 1980. After successfully passing the flight academy acceptance tests, he decided to follow his brother's steps and volunteer for the paratrooper brigade instead.[17] He served as a soldier and a squad leader and fought in the 1982 Lebanon War. After completing Officer Candidate School he became an infantry officer and returned to the Paratroopers Brigade as a platoon leader.[18] Golan served as the commander of the Brigade's Anti-tank company and led the 890 Paratroop Battalion in counter-guerrilla operations in the South Lebanon conflict and in the First Intifada.[19] In 1993, he served as a Battalion Commander in IDF Officers' School and afterwards served as Judea and Samaria Division's Operations Branch Officer. Between the years 1996–1997 he Commanded the Eastern brigade of Lebanon Liaison Unit and was injured in an encounter with a squad of Hezbollah militants.[20] He then served as the head of the Operations section in the Operations Directorate.[20] During the Second Intifada, Golan commanded the Nahal Infantry Brigade.[21] Afterwards, he commanded the 91st Division and the Judea and Samaria Division.[20]

From 2008–2011, Golan served as the Commander of Home Front Command, which he led through Operation Cast Lead.[5] In July 2011, he served as the Commander of Israeli Northern Command,[6] and in December 2014 as Deputy Chief of General Staff. According to Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, prior to Gadi Eisenkot's appointment as Chief of Staff in February 2015, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu preferred Golan over Eisenkot;[22] however, Eisenkot has been chosen, and Golan continued in his role. Golan retired from active service in March 2018,[23] after being replaced by Aluf Aviv Kochavi in May 2017.[4]

Golan was a candidate for replacing Gadi Eisenkot, and relevant discussions were held during 2018. Strong objection from non-political parties due to his controversial statement during the holocaust day speech. Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman ended up choosing Kochavi over Golan. On 7 October 2023, the same day that the October 2023 Gaza–Israel conflict began, Golan arrived as a civilian to the headquarters of the southern district of the Home Front Command, and asked its commander, Rafi Milo to "re-enlist". He received a weapon and arrived in his private vehicle to the Gaza envelope, which was subject to a surprise attack on Israel, and rescued many survivors who were trapped in the area of the massacre at the Nature Festival near Re'im, using their phone locations. One of the people he rescued was the son of Haaretz journalist Nir Gontarz's.[24][25][26] He described what he saw as very difficult scenes and claimed that the battle of that day was the worst defeat of the State of Israel ever.[27]

Awards and decorations[edit]

Yair Golan was awarded 4 campaign ribbons

First Lebanon War Second Lebanon War South Lebanon Security Zone Operation Protective Edge

Political career[edit]

On 26 June 2019, Ehud Barak announced that Golan would join him in forming a new party called Israel Democratic Party which intended on challenging Netanyahu in the September 2019 Israeli legislative election.[28] The party later joined the Democratic Union alliance to contest the September election.[29] Golan was placed third on the list and served as a Member of the twenty-second Knesset. He re-activated the Democratic Choice party in January 2020, becoming its leader and joining the Democratic Union again in advance of the 2020 Israeli legislative election.[30] In December 2020, Golan announced his accession to Meretz, and was elected to the twenty-fourth Knesset. He was appointed Deputy Minister of Economy under Orna Barbivai.[2]

On 6 July 2022, he announced his candidacy for the leadership of the Meretz party ahead of the elections for the twenty-fifth Knesset.[31] He lost to Zehava Gal-On, but was elected fourth in the list elections and placed fifth.[32] He represented Meretz in the Knesset until the party failed to pass the electoral threshold in the 2022 legislative elections.[33] On 26 February 2024, Golan announced he is prepared to take part in the Labor primary election on 28 May. He stated that his mission will be to "lead the Labor Party and lead to the unification of the liberal-democratic camp".[34] On 28 May 2024, he won the Labor party primary election with 95% of the vote.[35]


Holocaust Day speech[edit]

As Deputy Chief of Staff, Golan made a speech on Holocaust Day in 2016 in which some say he drew a parallel between Europe in general and Germany in particular in the 1930s and current day Israel, by saying "If there is one thing that is scary in remembering the Holocaust, it is noticing horrific processes which developed in Europe – particularly in Germany – 70, 80, and 90 years ago, and finding remnants of that here (in Israel) among us in the year 2016." He said that sometimes Israeli soldiers were harsh in dealing with Palestinians, and he highlighted the example of Sergeant Elor Azaria being tried over a Hebron shooting incident as evidence that the IDF investigates itself and has high moral standards.[36] His comments drew significant criticism on social media, with Twitter users accusing Golan of "forgetting the lessons of the Holocaust."[37] Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the comments "outrageous" and said they "do injustice to Israeli society and create contempt for the Holocaust." Culture Minister Miri Regev called for his resignation, while opposition leader Isaac Herzog praised Golan for exhibiting "morality and responsibility."[38]

Later, Golan retracted and said that he did not intend to compare Israel to Nazi Germany, releasing a statement in which he said: "It is an absurd and baseless comparison and I had no intention whatsoever to draw any sort of parallel or to criticize the national leadership. The IDF is a moral army that respects the rules of engagement and protects human dignity."[39] In 2022, Golan stated that this incident is the reason he did not become Chief of Staff of the IDF, although he still agrees with his statements.[40]

Homesh incident[edit]

Homesh was an Israeli settlement that was evicted in the 2005 disengagement, but since then had constant illegal attempts to resettle it, and is a source of protest and violence in the West Bank.[41][42][43] On 16 December 2021, Yehudah Dimentman, a resident of the nearby settlement, Shavei Shomron who was a student at the Homesh outpost yeshiva, was killed by a Palestinian shooter.[44] In response to the attack, Homesh settlers attacked a man from the village of Burqa, damaged houses and desecrated graves.[45][46] Golan said that: "Those people who come to settle there, riot in Burqa, destroy gravestones, committed a pogrom. Do we abuse gravestones? These are not people, these are subhumans, despicable people, the corruption of the Jewish people."[47] The use of the phrase "subhuman" provoked a lot of criticism,[47][48][49] and Golan said it was an "unsuccessful expression".[50][51][52] In 2023, as a response to the Huwara rampage, Golan wrote on Twitter "They used to get angry with me when I said these people were subhuman. Today they are angry that I didn't say more."[53]

Use of human shields[edit]

On 18 October 2007, the IDF Chief of Staff initiated a disciplinary proceeding against then Brig. Gen. (Tat Aluf) Yair Golan, after a Military Police investigation into several cases where Golan used the "prior warning" procedure, which allowed IDF soldiers to use a relative or neighbor of a wanted person and force them to enter their house and ask them to turn themselves in. This procedure was outlawed by the Supreme Court in 2006, a decision that was also adopted by the IDF.[54][55] In an interview on 31 July 2022, Golan stated: "The way I used the procedure reduced the danger posed on the IDF soldiers drastically, and I avoided confrontations that could've ended in the death of many Palestinians."[56]

Political views[edit]

Golan defines himself as a leftist Zionist. When asked what event made Golan consider joining the Israeli political life, He said "in the 2015–2016 wave of violence and terror I see many cases where soldiers, regarding incidents... that are not dramatic incidents... incidents I've encountered a lot during my service, and they shoot. They shoot and kill. And I ask to be provided with all the investigations of every case where a Palestinian was killed, and I see event after event after event, where you say: Wait, this is not how a warrior behaves! And all this accumulation leads me to the feeling that something deep is amiss with us, firstly, it's distorted in the Israeli leadership, and after that, it distorts our perception within Israeli society. And this process of radicalization, of an inability to look at the other side and see even the enemy - as a human being, it's dangerous and destructive, and by the way, also harmful to the soldiers.[40]

Golan believes that Meretz and Ha'avoda should merge into one large leftist Zionist party and that both parties have ended their historical roles, and must rebrand themselves to be saved.[40] Golan has stated that he will fight against "corruption, the annexation of the West Bank, homophobia, and gender segregation".[57] On climate activism, Golan tweeted "Israel's influence on the climate crisis is negligible. The preoccupation with the climate in Israel should be in the preparation of infrastructure for extreme heat waves and the protection of our nature reserves. Talking about climate as if Israel is a power, is talking in slogans instead of doing actions that directly affect the Israeli citizen."[58] Golan has called on numerous occasions for the Israeli public to start "non-violent civil disobedience" (מרי אזרחי) in response to the 2023 Israeli judicial reform and the Thirty-seventh government of Israel. [59][60][61]

Israeli–Palestinian conflict[edit]

Golan supports the two-state solution based on land swaps and the keeping of most settlement blocs.[40] In a 2022 Interview to Kan 11 Golan said "We need to return to the base. To go back to (the way of) Ben-Gurion, Rabin, Begin and Sharon. We need to separate. we need to say: Yes, we would've liked all of Eretz Israel, as it's the land of our ancestors, but we have no choice. In order to preserve the integrity of the nation, we must give up on the unity of the land. I don't see any other chance for the State of Israel."[40]

Golan supports economic incentives in order to stabilize the hostilities in Gaza and to use military force if needed. As of August 2022, Golan was still supporting the 2005 Israeli Disengagement from Gaza, saying "I believe that, no, we have nothing to find there. It's a crazy idea in my eyes, the establishment of a bloc of Jewish settlements between Khan Yunis and the sea is a dreadful and terrible thing".[40] Although there are conflicting statements, Golan stated in August 2022 that the IDF is an "occupying military" but believes it is justified until peace is achieved.[40] He has made statements against the BDS movement, saying that he believes it has anti-Semitic overtones, and that Israel has to "fight it to the bitter end".[62]

Religion and state[edit]

Golan believes in complete separation of state and religion including the end of the "marriage monopoly" in Israel, allowing LGBT+ marriage and public transportation on Shabbat.[63] In several interviews and statements, Golan heavily criticized the lack of secular education in Haredi schools.[63][64]


Golan stated that he believes in "An economy that creates equal opportunities, that allows every young man and woman an open horizon thanks to proper education and proper infrastructure in the center and the periphery."[63]

Personal life and education[edit]

Golan is married to Ruthie, he is a father to five children and resides in Rosh HaAyin.[65][66] Golan holds a bachelor's degree in political science from Tel Aviv University, and a master's degree in public administration policy from Harvard University in the United States (joint program of the Wexner Foundation and the Kennedy School of Government).[65]


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External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Leader of the Israeli Labor Party