Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, of Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party, called an undercover police officer a "dirty Arab" during a tour of the crime-ridden old central bus station in Tel Aviv.

Aharonovitch asked to meet undercover agents who were active in the region. One of the agents who arrived to meet the minister apologized, saying "I'm a little dirty," to which Aharonovitch replied "dirty? You look like a real dirty Arab."

Aharonovitch later apologized for the remark, saying that it did not reflect his worldview.

A spokesman for the public security minister also issued a response, saying that "in a moment of jest, and using common slang, the minister said what he said, not intending to hurt anyone. If this or that person were offended, that was not his intention."

The chairman of the Arab party Ra'am-Ta'al, Sheikh Ibrahim Sarsur, harshly criticized Aharonovitch's remark, and demanded that he apologize immediately for having said it. He warned that this kind of comment intensifies the tension between Jews and Arabs in Israel.

In a statement issued following the incident, Sarsur said "these are base and racist remarks. It is an embarrassment that the one making these remarks is a minister holding a high office."

MK Ahmed Tibi, also of Ra'am Ta'al, said that "Aharonovitch`s dirty mouth emits the odor of sewage."