Funding from foreign governments to get more Israeli Arabs to vote worked, which means all right-wing voters must make sure to go to the polls, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Tuesday.
“The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are going en masse to the polls. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them on buses,” he said.
Netanyahu’s message, delivered in a video on Facebook, came shortly after the Joint (Arab) List announced that as of 11 a.m., 10 percent of Israeli Arabs had voted, as opposed to 3 percent at the same time in the last election. After the prime minister issued his warning, the party decided to stop releasing Arab voting numbers.
“We only have you,” a visibly tired Netanyahu pleaded. “Go to the polls, bring your friends and family, vote Mahal [Likud] to close the gap between us and Labor [Zionist Union].”
“With your help and God’s help, we will form a nationalist government that will protect the State of Israel,” he added.
MK Ahmed Tibi (Ta’al) responded to Netanyahu’s message, saying that the prime minister is in a panic.
“He is inciting against Arab voters who are taking advantage of their natural and democratic right as citizens,” he said. “Netanyahu and [the] Likud are afraid, and therefore I call on more and more of the Arab public to go to the polls so Netanyahu will continue panicking. Change is coming.”
Netanyahu later clarified that “what’s wrong is not that Arab citizens are voting, but that massive funds from abroad from left-wing NGOs and foreign governments are bringing them en masse to the polls in an organized way, thus twisting the true will of all Israeli citizens who are voting, for the good of the Left.”
Likud sent an SMS to voters that “voting percentages tripled among the Arab population! The concern is coming true: The call by [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] and American money are bringing Arabs to the polls. Go vote!” The SMS included a link to a Channel 1 news report that Abbas encouraged Arab MKs to form one party and recommend Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog as prime minister.
Other right-wing parties soon jumped on the bandwagon, with Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman writing on Facebook that “Netanyahu knows that if masses of Arabs go to the polls, only a strong Liberman can stop them.”
Bayit Yehudi sent an SMS to voters that “it is important to spread the word: There are high voter rates in the Arab population. We are worried that the Arab party of [MKs Ahmed] Tibi and [Haneen] Zoabi will surpass Bayit Yehudi as the third-biggest party and hurt the right-wing bloc. Make sure to get everyone out of the house and vote Bayit Yehudi.”
The Joint List passed Bayit Yehudi and was third-largest party in many polls in the past few months.
MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) wrote on Facebook that “no Western leader would dare let such a racist text come out of his mouth.”
“Imagine if the prime minister or president of any democratic country would warn that his government is in danger because, for example, ‘black voters are going en masse to the polls.’ Horrifying, right? “It looks like what bothers Bibi [Netanyahu] is that Israeli citizens are going to vote in high numbers and simply want to replace him democratically,” she added.
Meanwhile, complaints about Netanyahu’s comments filled social media, and was even made into a meme, showing the prime minister’s head on the body of a character from the TV show Game of Thrones who is known for saying “Brace yourself, winter is coming,” with the caption: “Brace yourselves, the Arabs are voting.”