Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu on Monday apologized for election-day comments in which he warned that Israeli Arabs were putting his government “in danger” by coming out “en masse” to vote.
“Voter turnout in the Arab sector is three times higher. The threat is real: Abu Mazen’s (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas) calls and American money are getting the Arab vote out. Go and vote,” Netanyahu had said March 17 in order to encourage Israeli Jewish voters to go to the polls.
After his remarks drew criticism from Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, American Jewish organizations, and President Barack Obama, Netanyahu said on Monday, “I know the things I said a few days ago hurt some of Israel’s citizens and hurt Israel’s Arabs. I had no intention to do that. I apologize for it.”
“My actions as prime minister, including the massive investments in minority groups, prove the complete opposite,” said Netanyahu. “I equally think that no authority outside of Israel should meddle in our democratic processes. I see myself as the prime minister of every one of you, of all Israeli citizens, without any difference of religion, race, or gender. I see all Israeli citizens as partners in the building of a thriving and secure Israel for all Israeli citizens.”
The Joint Arab List-an alliance of Israel’s Arab political parties that is now the country’s third-largest party, with 13 Knesset seats-rejected Netanyahu’s apology, calling it “empty words,” Yediot Achronot reported.