PM Netanyahu: Dear Arab citizens of Israel--take part in our society in droves.
(photo credit: screenshot)
Arab MKs rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s outreach on Monday in the release of YouTube videos urging the country’s 1.65 million Arab citizens to engage further in society.
Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh – in a biting response on Tuesday – said, “Mr. Prime Minister, you are right about one thing. We really want to be part of society. But maybe I’ll surprise you now saying, we do not want to be second-class citizens in a racist and occupying state.”
He also mentioned that “more than 100,000 Arab citizens who live in unrecognized villages in the Negev. They cannot listen to your words, not in Hebrew nor in English... simply [because] their homes do not have electricity.”
Odeh also charged that the prime minister “regularly incites” against the Arab public.
PM Netanyahu: Dear Arab citizens of Israel--take part in our society in droves
Joint List MK and Ta’al party head Ahmad Tibi told The Jerusalem Post
that “the international community will not buy this sweet exercise in public relations. They just know Bibi.”
Following the release of the video, Tibi had ridiculed the prime minister, saying that “addressing the Arab public in English was ridiculous.”
“Mr. Netanyahu’s impassioned appeal to the residents of Taiba and Rahat in English raised smiles and questions about the context of this spin,” he said.
Tibi blamed Netanyahu’s government for the huge disparities between Arab and Jewish communities, and for home destructions rather than real integration.
Netanyahu released YouTube videos in Hebrew and English with Arab subtitles addressing the country’s Arab citizens, and apologizing for controversial remarks made during the 2015 election when he called for right-wing voters to turn out by warning that Arabs were “going en masse to the polls.”
“I said Arab voters were going to the polls in droves,” he said in Monday’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, hi-tech professionals, doctors and pharmacists who hail from the community.
“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.”
Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen (Hadash) cautiously welcomed the prime minister’s change in language, welcomed the prime minister’s change in language, but said he needs to “prove to us that the change in his discourse is true.”
“I have every reason to fear that this is lip service and another public relations exercise designed for Arab listeners in the region,” he said.
“Netanyahu spoke of the need to integrate its Arab citizens, but this is a government that needs to come to its senses and change its policy and stop the incitement, political exclusion and persecution against the Arab public,” argued Jabareen.
The NGO Mossawa Center – The Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel, released a statement saying, “Netanyah’s speech was directed toward the international community.
Our experience with this government makes us cautious and afraid that Netanyahu and [Defense Minister Avigdor] Liberman will continue to target our community.”