The prime minister was met by protesters on a visit to a major Arab city to call on them to vote for Likud.
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu campaigned Wednesday in the predominantly Arab city of Nazareth and was greeted by protesters as he called upon Arabs to vote for his Likud Party in the upcoming national election.
Although the visit was ostensibly to a coronavirus vaccination center at a health clinic to encourage people to get inoculated, Netanyahu gave a major election pitch to the Israeli Arab sector as hundreds of demonstrators protested nearby.
“If Jews and Arabs can dance together in the streets of Dubai, they can dance together in the State of Israel as well,” Netanyahu tweeted, referring to the successful peace treaty signed last year with the United Arab Emirates.
“A new era begins today — of prosperity, integration and security,” the prime minister said, giving a speech in which he called on Arabs to vote for his party, which has been thought of as hostile to Arabs.
Netanyahu promised to restore law and order to the Arab sector that has been hit hard in the past year by violent crime, but spent time trying to extricate himself from comments he made before the 2015 elections that were perceived as racist, when he exhorted Jews to come out and vote because Israeli Arabs “were rushing to the polls.”
“For years, political elements distorted my words,” Netanyahu said. “In the 2015 elections, my intention was not to warn about the vote of Arab citizens of Israel, but to warn against voting for the Joint List [party] that subsequently opposed four historic peace agreements I achieved with four Arab states,” he said, emphasizing that “all Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel must vote, it is a democratic right.”
Veteran Knesset member Ahmad Tibi of the Arab Joint List who participated in the protests, slammed Netanyahu after police clashed with the demonstrators outside the health clinic and arrested 10 people, including Arab Knesset member Sondos Saleh, who required medical treatment after apparently being shoved by a police officer and crashing into a street marker before being dragged away despite her parliamentary immunity.
“Netanyahu’s love attack on Arabs goes through beatings and shovings by police against demonstrators and journalists in Nazareth who came to protest his cynical exploitation of vaccines before the election and the search for Arab votes to gain immunity,” Tibi tweeted. “Where are these cops when you need them in front of criminals and weapons smugglers and protection rackets?”
“A ‘clash’ they call it in the Hebrew media when three armed policemen attack, drag and hit a Knesset member who is armed with a bottle of water,” Saleh tweeted, showing a picture of a policeman grabbing her by the arm as he held a riot gun in the other.
Saleh, the youngest lawmaker in the Knesset, tweeted that she was in the hospital with a suspected broken arm.
“We will continue to oppose Netanyahu’s policies, racism and the ugly attempt to separate among us [Israeli Arabs] just to continue to rule.”
Israel’s fourth national elections in the past two years are scheduled to be held March 23.