Livni to Israeli Arab mayors: There's an attempt to turn tensions into 'religious conflict’

Sakhnin mayor expresses shock over attempt by PM "to please the right-wing at our expense.”

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni speaks to the press in Jerusalem. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni speaks to the press in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) held a meeting on Wednesday in the Knesset with Arab mayors to calm tensions in light of recent violence.
“There is an attempt to turn the struggle into a religious conflict,” Livni said, as reported by The Jerusalem Post’s sister publication Maariv Hashavua.
“This is a meeting with citizens of the State of Israel,” she said as the meeting began, adding that we often talk about Arabs, but without them present. “It is not possible to understand each other without dialogue.”
“It is needed to talk and calm some of the Jewish and Arab politicians who use the tensions for political gain,” the justice minister asserted.
Herzog said that “there is no national debate about the need to live together – Jews and Arabs.”
Mazen Ganaim, mayor of Sakhnin in the Western Galilee and chairman of the committee of Arab municipal authorities, said that he was “shocked to hear Prime Minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] trying to please the right-wing at our expense,” according to the report.
On Friday evening, policemen killed an Arab attacker during an arrest operation in the Galilee village of Kafr Kana, leading to further riots.
On Monday, Netanyahu publicly challenged Israeli Arabs protesting the police shooting to go and live under Palestinian rule in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
“To all those who are demonstrating and shouting their denunciation of Israel and support of a Palestinian state, I can say one simple thing: You are invited to move there – to the Palestinian Authority or to Gaza,” he said.
Ganaim told the Post on Tuesday that “we Arabs want to calm the situation,” but some politicians and ministers were pouring oil on the flames.
Regarding Netanyahu’s comments, he said that “the role of the prime minister is to defend all citizens, and it is unfortunate that he said this.”
Kafr Kasim Mayor Adel Badir told the Post on Tuesday that Netanyahu’s remarks “affect the Arab street,” as the average Arab “does not feel good that the prime minister wants them out of the country.
“Instead of the government trying to calm things and invest in Arab towns, it talks about Arabs leaving,” he said. “The state says, ‘You are a guest,’ but we were here before the state existed – this is our land. We are not visitors here.”
If the prime minister wants to calm tensions, he “should speak directly to the Arabs with respect, as he does with the Jews,” Badir said.
Reuters contributed to this report.