Netanyahu 'Sorry' His Comments Offended Israeli Arabs

'I see myself as the prime minister of each and every one of you,' prime minister tells leaders of Israeli minority groups; Joint List of Arab parties dismisses 'empty gesture.'

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and an Arab representative, March 23, 2015.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and an Arab representative, March 23, 2015.Credit: New Media Likud
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed regret Monday for his statements during the elections last week, in which he called on his supporters to vote, warning that "the Arabs are voting in droves."

"I know the things I said a few days ago hurt some Israeli citizens," Netanyahu said during a meeting Tuesday with representatives of Israeli monitory groups.

"My actions as prime minister, including massive investment in minority sectors, prove the exact opposite," he added. "I think, similarly, that no element outside the state of Israel should intervene in our democratic processes."

The prime minister added: "I see myself as the prime minister of each and every one of you, of all Israeli citizens without differentiating between religions, races and sex. I see in all Israeli citizens partners in building the State of Israel, one that is thriving and safe for all Israeli citizens."

Netanyahu's comments on Election Day drew harsh criticism in Israel and abroad. The White House said it was “deeply concerned” by “divisive rhetoric” that sought to marginalize Israeli Arabs, and Netanyahu's remarks against Israel's Arab citizens were also brought up by Obama in his conversation with Netanyahu a few days after the elections.

In Israel, President Reuven Rivlin took the prime minister to task over the remarks, saying such remarks have no place in a country where people must live as equals. Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog also slammed Netanyahu, saying he "humiliated 20 percent of Israeli citizens for the sake of his election campaign" with those remarks.

The Joint List of Arab parties responded to Netanyahu's latest statement, saying it rejects the prime minister's apology, as he is planning "racist and marginalizing legislation" in the upcoming Knesset "as well." "Netanyahu's regret is no more than an empty gesture designed to legitimize the continuation of the racist rule of Netanyahu and his people," the List added.

The Joint List also called on Netanyahu to "give back the Knesset seat he got based on incitement and fear."

Prime Minister Netanyahu's Election Day video:

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