Deputy Minister Matan Kahana apologizes to Arab MK Ahmad Tibi for saying he would send Arabs on an express train to live better lives in Switzerland.
By World Israel News Staff
A senior coalition member sparked outrage from Arab and leftwing MKs after he was caught on camera saying that if there was a button he could press to transfer all the Arabs in the Holy Land to Switzerland to “live a wonderful, wonderful life,” he would do so.
Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana’s remarks prompted MK Ahmed Tibi to threaten that he, too, would “press the button” to make Kahana disappear from the government.
Kahana later issued an apology, saying his comments were badly phrased.
Speaking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Monday to a group of high school students in the town of Efrat, Kahana said that he doesn’t believe peace is possible, at least not in the near future.
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“If there was a button you could press that would make all the Arabs disappear, that would send them on an express train to Switzerland — may they live wonderful, wonderful lives there, I wish them all the best in the world, in Switzerland — I would press that button,” he said in a recording that was aired by the Kan public broadcaster.
“But what can you do, there’s no such button,” he continued. “Therefore it seems like we were both destined to exist here on this land in some form.”
Kahana , who recently failed to be reinstated as religious affairs minister, also said that the leftwing notion that there would be peace if Israel reverted to pre-1967 lines and gave up on Jewish communities in Judea and Samria is “nonsense.”
“The Arabs will never give up Beit Gamliel and they will never give up on Sheikh Munis — Tel Aviv University,” he said, referring to a Palestinian village that was evacuated in 1948 in what is today’s suburb of Ramat Aviv.
“For 2,000 years, we dreamed, we prayed, we wrote songs and waited for the moment to come back to our state,” the Yamina MK said.
“But the Arabs are telling themselves a different story, we know it’s nonsense and not true,” Kahana said. “They are telling themselves that they are the ones who always lived here and that we came and expelled them.”
His remarks were denounced by several lawmakers, including from the Islamist Ra’am party, which sits in the coalition with Yamina.
“Matan Kahana, we are here because this is our homeland,” Ra’am MK Walid Taha said. “You, and anyone who thinks like you, will continue to be embroiled in frustration because we simply won’t disappear.”
MK Ahmad Tibi, from the majority Arab Joint List party in the opposition, tweeted, “There is a button that will make you disappear from the government and from the Knesset. I will press it soon.”
The threat was an apparent reference to the power that Tibi holds in deciding the fate of the shaky coalition. Tibi recently held talks with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid regarding a vote in favor of the coalition in exchange for advancing measures addressing the needs of the Arab sector.
Kahana acknowledged on Tuesday morning that his remarks had included “poor choice of words.”
After he was criticized, Kahana apologized to Tibi in a phone call, but the Arab MK demanded that he publicly apologize. Kahana agreed and wrote a tweet saying: “In a conversation I held last night with students, I reiterated the obvious idea that neither we nor the Arabs are going anywhere, and that’s why we need to find a way to live here together. The current government is an important step in that direction. My word flow included some bad phrasing.”