Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sought to clarify a controversial remarks he made during the 2015 election in a call Monday night urging the country's Arab citizens to engage further in Israeli society.
In a video message released Monday, the premier apologized for "how my comment was misunderstood" in reference to his call during the last election for right-wing voters to counter Arab voters, who he said "are going en masse to the polls."
"I said Arabs voters were going to the polls in droves," he said in Monday night's video. "I was referring to a specific political party but many people were understandably offended."
Netanyahu invoked the same language to implore Israeli-Arabs to take part in Israeli society, work, study and thrive all "in droves."
"Israel is strong because of our diversity and pluralism—not in spite of it," he stressed, noting that some 20 percent of Israel's population is Arab.
"I am proud of the role Arabs play in Israel's success," he asserted. "I want you to play an even greater role in it."
The prime minister noted the achievements of the Israeli-Arab sector, including its role in the Supreme Court and Knesset along with the renowned authors, entrepreneurs, high-tech professionals, doctors and pharmacists who hail from the community.
However, while mentioning recent legislation regarding the Israeli-Arab sector, Netanyahu acknowledged that "significant gaps" still remain in Israeli society.
"My vision is that young Arab boys and girls grow up knowing they can achieve anything in Israel as valued and equal citizens in our democracy," he stated.
"Our land is too small, it's too precious to fill it with discord and hate," he added. "Let us work together, Arabs and Jews alike, to reach ever higher in the noble pursuit of equality and dignity for all."
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