Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee answers a question at a news conference July 23, 2015, in San Diego. (Denis Poroy/AP)

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee this weekend escalated the rhetoric over President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, saying that the pending agreement “will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.”

The reference to the Holocaust — in which Jews were killed in Nazi gas chambers and their bodies cremated in ovens — created a backlash Sunday on Twitter, with numerous users condemning Huckabee’s remarks. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chairman of the Democratic National Committee, called on the former Arkansas governor to “apologize to the Jewish community and to the American people for this grossly irresponsible statement.”

In an interview Saturday with Breitbart News, Huckabee said the agreement symbolized what he called Obama’s “feckless” foreign policy. He then said: “It is so naive that he would trust the Iranians. By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven. This is the most idiotic thing, this Iran deal. It should be rejected by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and by the American people.”

Huckabee, who is scrambling to gain attention in a 2016 presidential race dominated recently by GOP candidate Donald Trump, is known for being especially pro-Israel, even among a field of Republican candidates who voice support for the country.

At a news conference in Addis Ababa, Ethi­o­pia, President Obama said Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s attacks on Sen. John McCain are indicative of a larger, cultural problem. (Reuters)

He told The Washington Post in February that he had been a regular visitor to Israel for 42 years and has led dozens of tours there. “Americans support Israel, but until they see it, they don’t get it,’’ said Huckabee, who has met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top officials during his trips.

Although numerous Republicans have condemned the deal with Iran, Huckabee’s comments didn’t seem to resonate much on the campaign trail. Spokesmen for the leading GOP presidential candidates — including Trump, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — did not respond Sunday to questions about the remarks.

Former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) issued a statement through an aide blasting the agreement as “the worst foreign policy decision ever made by an American president. Iran has never kept their promises and there is no reason to believe they will keep them now.’’ The statement did not address Huckabee’s reference to the Holocaust.

The Senate is considering the deal that was finalized recently between Iran and world powers. It would require Tehran to remove the vast majority of its stockpile of enriched uranium, dismantle much of its nuclear infrastructure and submit to regular inspections of nuclear sites in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

Republicans in the Senate spoke in scathing terms about the deal in a hearing Thursday, calling it fatally flawed and dangerously naive. Secretary of State John F. Kerry and other top administration officials strongly defended it. To derail the deal, opponents would need to secure a two-thirds vote to override a veto pledge from Obama.