‘I support Netanyahu’: Arab mayor offered ‘safe’ spot in Likud, ‘can be a minister’

Nazareth Mayor Ali Salam says Netanyahu offered him a “safe” spot on the Likud list in the March elections.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Nazareth Mayor Ali Salam said Thursday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked him to run on the Likud list in the upcoming national elections.

As a member of Israel’s Arab minority, he would be offered a “safe” spot on the Likud list, almost guaranteeing him a seat in the Knesset, Salam said.

“Netanyahu offered me one of the first places on the [Likud] list. I asked him to let me think about it, [because] I am not built to be in the Knesset and live there and I cannot tolerate freeloaders,” Salam said in an interview with Radio 103 FM in Tel Aviv.

“I have known Netanyahu for many years and I was in his office several times. If I want, I can be a minister.”

Salam met with Netanyahu Wednesday during the prime minister’s visit to Nazareth, where he campaigned for Arab votes ahead of the March 23 election.

In Israel’s proportional representation system, voters cast their ballot for a party, not an individual. The seats in Israel’s 120-seat parliament are divided by the percentage of votes, so that winning 10 percent of the popular vote would give a party 12 seats. The top 12 politicians on the party list, submitted before the election, go into the Knesset. Current opinion polls predict the Likud stands to win about 30 seats.

Asked if he thought the Arab sector could really put its trust in Netanyahu, whose Likud Party is traditionally seen as anti-Arab, Salam said the answer is probably yes.

“I said I support Netanyahu, and he will receive between three and four seats from Arab society in the upcoming elections. I am responsible for my words,” Salam said. “Netanyahu has promised to give budgets to Arab society, and he will.”

“I asked him to make peace with the Palestinians, this is the most important thing, since 1948 we have been paying a price, and he will do it,” Salam added. “He and I will make peace with the Palestinians, the Arabs of Israel will be the bridge of peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis.”

Salam had some harsh words for Arab politicians in the Knesset who belong to the Arab Joint List, calling their performance a “disappointment.”

“[The List] did not prove itself and did nothing for Arab society,” he said, adding that Joint List leader Ayman Odeh “is not worth anything.”