Netanyahu woos Arabs with ‘new age of brotherhood, prosperity, security’

Police drag protesting Joint List MKs away in what Knesset speaker called unacceptable behavior.

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.
Promising a better future, greater integration into Israeli society, and to fight crime, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu courted the Arab vote in Nazareth on Wednesday.
Netanyahu opened his remarks at the Nazareth municipality with “a-salam aleikum,” – shalom aleichem, peace unto you – and immediately addressed his comments on Election Day in 2015, in which he warned: “Arabs voters are going in their droves to the ballot boxes; left-wing organizations are bringing them on buses.”
The prime minister said “people twisted my words,” and that he believes that “all Israeli citizens, Jews and Arabs must vote. It’s the most important democratic right.”
“My intention was to warn against voting for the Joint List. Years later, you all saw the Joint List oppose the four historic peace agreements I brought with four Arab states,” he said, scoffing: “Unbelievable.”
The Abraham Accords have brought Jews and Arabs together, and the same should go for Israeli Arabs, Netanyahu said.
“If Jews and Arabs can dance together in the streets of Dubai, they can dance together here in Israel. A new age of brotherhood, prosperity and security starts today,” he stated.
Netanyahu added that he believes Israeli Arabs should be a full part of Israeli society, and commended Arab nurses and doctors who are among the “angels in white” helping all of Israel fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Responding to critics who said he only cares about Arab citizens of Israel now that it’s before an election, Netanyahu said they are “lying or don’t know the facts,” citing the fact that his government designated NIS 15b. for infrastructure, transportation, education and welfare in the Arab sector in 2015. His government is preparing another package for the next five years, he said.
He also emphasized steps his government has taken to fight crime in Arab communities, including nine new police stations opened in Arab towns since 2016. Netanyahu said that he, Finance Minister Israel Katz and Interior Minister Arye Deri are working on a package that will grant mayors more money to devote to their residents’ personal security.
“I know there is a lot more to do so you feel safe and sound in your towns. I personally promise to ensure the personal security of each and every one of you,” Netanyahu said.
JOINT LIST lawmakers organized a protest of about 50 people in Nazareth ahead of the prime minister’s visit. Video of the protest showed three MKs being forcefully dragged away, with the Joint List condemning the police violence.
Joint List MK Sondos Saleh went to the hospital with a suspected hand fracture and pains in her neck and back after what she described as an assault by police.
Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin said that while “the attempts by extremist factors to block [Netanyahu’s] visit are worthy of condemnation... we cannot accept the removal of MKs Sondos Saleh and Mtanes Shihadeh as conducted by the police today. Freedom of movement is a necessary component in our ability to do our jobs.”
Netanyahu said the protests are “a sign of despair, and they have a reason to despair: They, too, see the support for me and Likud in Arab society, which is growing.
“Arab citizens, you are joining Likud because you finally want to join a ruling part with a record of strong leadership and the will to bring… a future of integration, prosperity and security. We will do that together,” he said.
Nazareth Mayor Ali Sallam continued on that theme, saying: “I promise, Mr. Prime Minister, that we will support you… We never had it as good as we have it now.”
As for the Joint List, he said they are irrelevant and “did nothing” with their 15 seats in the last Knesset, waving them off as “like the communists.”
Sallam also called for Netanyahu to proactively work to make peace with the Palestinians.
In addition, he suggested the government have a two- to three-year moratorium on demolishing illegally constructed homes, during which new, legal homes can be built for residents of Arab towns.
“The time has come for you to treat us like you do Jewish citizens,” Sallam said. “We are loyal citizens. We respect where we are. We don’t spit where we eat.”