Netanyahu Appeals Directly to Arab Citizens to ‘Take Part’ in Israeli Society

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a direct appeal to Arab citizens of Israel, imploring them to become more active members of Israeli society.

The prime minister addressed Israeli Arabs, who comprise 20 percent of the Jewish state’s population, in an address in English with Arabic subtitles published last week on the government’s YouTube channel and the Prime Minister’s Office Facebook page. He also apologized for a remark he made on election day.

“Before my election, I said Arabs voters were going to the polls in droves,” he said. “I was referring to a specific political party but many people were understandably offended. I apologized for how my comment was misunderstood.”

“But today I want to go further. Today I am asking Arab citizens in Israel to take part in our society—in droves. Work in droves, study in droves, thrive in droves. Israel is strong because of our diversity and pluralism—not in spite of it.”

Netanyahu’s appeal comes amid a lull in terror attacks. Since September, 40 people have been killed in terrorist attacks and 517 people injured, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Many attacks were carried out by Israeli Arabs who live close to or within Israeli neighborhoods.

The prime minister lauded Arabs for achieving success in Israel as Supreme Court justices, members of parliament, entrepreneurs, high tech business-owners, doctors and pharmacists. Acknowledging “significant gaps” between Jewish and Arab neighborhoods, he promised government help, particularly in the area of public safety in Arab towns.

“My government recently passed a resolution to invest massive resources in Arab communities. Arab communities are receiving unprecedented support for public infrastructure, for transportation, for employment, for welfare, for so many other things. And the reason for this is simple. Because your future is our future.”

“My vision is that young Arab boys and girls grow up knowing they can achieve anything in Israel as valued and equal citizens in our democracy.”

Netanyahu called on Jewish and Arab citizens to “reach out to each other, get to know each other’s families. Listen to each other.”

“Jews and Arabs should treat one another with the same dignity and respect you’d want for your own family,” he said. “Our land is too small, it’s too precious to fill it with discord and hate. Let us work together, Arabs and Jews alike, to reach ever higher in the noble pursuit of equality and dignity for all.”

If the political Arab response is any indication the plea was received with skepticism and even scorn.

“Netanyahu’s appeal is all talk. It’s more spin,” Arab Member of Parliament Ahmed Tibi said. “There is lack of zoning plans and representation in the public sector and above all Arab citizens are exposed to racism and hatred. They listen to Netanyahu and laugh.”

Ayman Oudeh, parliament member and chariman of the Knesset party Joint List, said Netanyahu has only further incited against Arabs since his election.

“I say to the prime minister, in the name of the Arab public, that we don’t buy his show of hypocrisy,” Oudeh said.