Netanyahu to Haifa: Nix appointment of Hamas-supporting deputy mayor

The prime minister called on the appointment of an Arab as deputy major of Haifa to be cancelled given his anti-Israel position. 

By World Israel News Staff and TPS

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the most prominent of a growing list of those calling for the cancellation of the appointment of Raja Zaatra as deputy major of Haifa.

On Sunday, Netanyahu said that he had asked newly elected Haifa Mayor Einat Kalisch-Rotem to nix the appointment of a deputy mayor “who supports Hezbollah and Hamas, organizations that declare their wish to destroy the State of Israel.”

Zaatra, a former spokesman for the Hadash Party, a radical left-wing coalition formed by Israel’s communist party and other groups, is set to take up the post in the second half of Kalisch-Rotem’s five year term as part of a coalition agreement in the mixed Jewish-Arab city.

Zaatra, the former Joint Arab List spokesman, has compared the Zionist movement to the Islamic State. At Bar-Ilan University in 2015, he said that the Islamic State had learned from the Zionist movement in 1948 “the rape, the looting, the murder.”

He also claimed that Hamas isn’t a terrorist organization, telling Israel’s Army Radio that “every people under occupation has the right to resist.”

In 2012, Zaatra set up a local BDS chapter encouraging the boycott of Israel among Israeli Arabs. In a Facebook post at the time, Zaatra said the movement was demanding the removal of settlements and the withdrawal of all lands captured by Israel in 1967, recognition of the “rights of refugees” and termination of the what he called the “regime of racist discrimination in Israel.”

On Friday, Shas chairman Aryeh Deri said he was looking into whether he had legal recourse as interior minister to block the appointment.

“Raja Za’atra, a Haifa councilman, has expressed support for Hezbollah and Hamas and supported a boycott of Israel, as well as supporting actions against Israel as a democratic and Jewish state. Such a person cannot be a paid deputy mayor as the Haifa mayor has requested,” Deri said.

“I have asked the Attorney General to examine whether it is in my prerogative to prevent the appointment and I hope he authorizes me to do so,” he said.

Responding to Deri and Netanyahu’s comments,  Za’atra said: “I am neither a member of Hezbollah nor Hamas, but of the Israeli Communist Party and Hadash, which advocate peace, equality and fraternity between peoples.

“The real danger to Israel is not to be found  at the Haifa municipality, but at 10 Balfour Street [the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem]. By the time I become deputy mayor, Netanyahu and Deri will probably be in prison.”