Moshe Kahlon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [File].
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized on Friday for racially charged comments regarding Jews of Middle Eastern descent.
In responding to a question by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon as to why Netanyahu requested a six-month delay of the new Israel Broadcasting Corporation, the prime minister said his “Mizrahi gene was activated.”
The statement, using the Hebrew word for “eastern,” appeared to play off of degrading stereotypes of Jews of Middle Eastern descent.
After a flood of condemnation from opposition and some coalition MKs, the prime minister apologized on Twitter stating, “I apologize for my remarks yesterday. I had no intention to offend anyone. I am connected with all my heart to every group in Israel and I cherish their tremendous contribution to the tradition of our people and building our land.”
Zionist Union MK Amir Peretz, who is of Moroccan descent, said that “what was activated in [Netanyahu] was his racist gene.”
“This is not humorous but reveals a dark inner truth. This is another expression of the discriminatory policies of Netanyahu,” Peretz said on Facebook on Friday.
Likud MK Oren Hazan also chimed in on Twitter, stating that Netanyahu stating that if Netanyahu "really had a [Mizrahi gene] he would not insult it."
Despite Netanyahu’s statement, a severe coalition crisis was averted on Thursday
, after the premier and Minister Kahlon reportedly agreed that the new Israel Broadcasting Corporation would begin operations on April 30, following earlier calls by Netanyahu to prevent its establishment.
In return, Kahlon agreed to a support a ministerial bill which would create a unified state regulatory body for news broadcasting, but which has been criticized by opposition parties for creating government control over the body and thereby threatening press freedoms.Jeremy Sharon and Udi Shaham contributed to this article