Joint List Leader: A Real Apology From Netanyahu Would Be True Equality for Arabs

Ayman Odeh criticizes prime minister for not inviting the party's leadership to his residence, says 'racist legislation' will continue.

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Joint List head Ayman Odeh casts his ballot with his children at a polling station in Haifa, on March 17, 2015.
Joint List head Ayman Odeh casts his ballot with his children at a polling station in Haifa, on March 17, 2015.Credit: AFP

The leader of the Joint List of Arab parties, Ayman Odeh, rejected on Monday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's apology for the offense his remarks on Election Day caused, saying that a true apology would include true equality for Israeli Arabs and minority groups.

"I want to see if he recognizes the unrecognized Bedouin villages [in the Negev]," Odeh told Channel 2. "He will keep pushing the racist legislation and will sit with [Habayit Hayehudi's Naftali] Bennett to legislate the Jewish nation-state law. This isn't a true apology."

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.

During another interview with Channel 10 news, Odeh said that Netanyahu's "racism didn’t start or end with this inflammatory statement," adding that "zig-zagging positions are part of Netanyahu's personality."

The head of the third-largest party also criticized the fact that Joint List leaders were not invited to the meeting with Netanyahu, accusing him of turning one community against the other.

"Therefore we have no choice but to continue the struggle of democratic Arab and Jewish citizens together against Netanyahu's destructive policy, and for a future of peace, equality, democracy and social justice for all of the country's citizens," Odeh said.

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.
Prime Minister Netanyahu's Election Day video:

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