Arab leaders call for boycott of 'deceitful' meeting with Netanyahu

"For 13 years Bibi has done nothing, this meeting is part of his election campaign and I won't take part in that."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen at a Clalit clinic in Nazereth. (photo credit: GIL ELIYAHU/HAARETZ/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen at a Clalit clinic in Nazereth.
(photo credit: GIL ELIYAHU/HAARETZ/POOL)
Heads of Arab municipalities are calling for the boycott of a meeting set between the national council of heads of Arab municipalities and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, Israeli media reported Saturday.
Leaders are calling for the boycott on social media, saying that the meeting is exploiting violence in the Arab sector for political purposes and demanding the meeting be cancelled, N12 reported.
"For 13 years Bibi has done nothing, this meeting is part of his election campaign and I won't take part in that," said Shfaram Mayor Orsan Yasen at the meeting, Walla reported.
"Bibi is taking advantage of the crisis of violence, and like in 1997, trying to scrape votes from Arab towns," said head of the civil rights organization Mossawa Center, Jafar Farah, according to Walla.
In a detailed Facebook post, head of the Kafr Kanna Local Council Dr. Yousef Awawdeh explained why he will not be attending Sunday's meeting with Netanyahu, blaming Netanyahu and his government for failing to tackle and even to address the alarming crime rates in the Arab sector, while "successfully carrying out this responsibility in the Jewish community several years ago," Dr. Awawdeh wrote. "If the goal is electoral propaganda, I don't accept being a partner in exploiting the blood of our youth," he added.  

لن أشارك... تلقيت دعوة رسمية كرئيس مجلس كفركنا المحلي للمشاركة يوم الأحد بجلسة ستجمع رئيس الحكومة "نتنياهو" برؤساء...
Posted by ‎د. يوسف عواودة Dr. Yousef Awawdi‎ on Friday, 15 January 2021

Mohammad Darawshe, leader of the newly formed Arab-Israeli party called Ma'an, that is currently attempting to partner with centrist Jewish parties, also called on Arab leaders and heads of local councils to boycott the meeting, warning them that Netanyahu cannot be trusted. 

"Maybe the local council heads have forgotten but during Netanyahu's watch the racist Nation Law was passed, as well as the Kaminitz Law that is used to destroy houses in the Arab community; He made statements that were meant to de-legitimize the Arab voters. He has no intention of keeping the promises that he spreads around and they are only meant to collect more votes that will assure him his next cadention as prime minister," Darawshe wrote.  
Balad, one of the four parties comprising the Joint List, which is expected to lose four to five seats in the upcoming elections, launched a campaign against Netanyahu on Saturday that included billboards in Hebrew and in Arabic with the slogan: "We can't be bought" alongside an image of someone holding a cigar. 
One of the billboards put up by Balad, as part of its campaign against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saturday, January 16, 2020. (Credit: BALAD SPOKESPERSON)One of the billboards put up by Balad, as part of its campaign against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saturday, January 16, 2020. (Credit: BALAD SPOKESPERSON)
"You can't, under any circumstances, tie between citizens' rights and their political positions. The promise 'vote for me and get budgets' is an unacceptable form of bribery, and we won't be bought,"  a statement by Balad read. 
The meeting was arranged by Chairman of the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel Haim Bibas who coordinated it together with Chairman of the Council of Heads of Arab Municipalities Mudar Younes, who also serves as Mayor of Arara. 
But even Younes later called on other Arab leaders to boycott the meeting, saying that "crime [in the Arab sector] has existed for years, and now the prime minister has remembered to take care of it," according to N12.
However, some municipality leaders, a number of whom have previously identified with the Likud and supported Bibas, are pushing for the meeting to continue as planned, Walla reported. 
On Saturday, it was reported that after extensive debates, the Council of Heads of Arab Municipalities had decided to send a smaller delegation than originally anticipated to participate in the meeting with Netanyahu, as many refused to be a part of it. 
The Likud issued a statement blaming "radical entities" trying to prevent heads of local councils to participate and maintaining the situation instead of working to solve it. 
"Radical entities are now trying to pressure heads of local councils to cancel their participation. Some of those entities have opposed the establishment of police stations in Arab cities and haven't done anything to deal with crime families in the Arab community, the Likud statement read. "This campaign by radical entities won't work. The meeting will take place as planned and the prime minister will do anything in his power to maintain law and order in the Arab sector, like everywhere else. Every Israeli citizen deserves to feel safe in their community."
On Wednesday, Netanyahu campaigned among Arab voters in Nazareth and Umm el-Fahm and expressed confidence that Likud could win several seats from Arab voters who could enable his party to win as many as 42 seats in the March 23 election.
During his visit to Nazareth, Netanyahu apologized for a controversial comment he made during Israel's 2015 round of elections, when he warned the public that "Arab voters are going in their droves to the ballot boxes." He claimed that the media had twisted his words. 
A day after Netanyahu gave a campaign speech in Nazareth, touting coexistence, Likud’s spokesman slammed the Joint List and called on Arab citizens to vote for them instead. 
Gil Hoffman and Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.