Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday the State of Israel belongs to the Jewish people alone, this in response to a comment by Israeli actress Rotem Sela, who wrote on social media that Israel is a country of all its citizens. Later on, actress Gal Gadot rebuked him for it, and so did President Reuven Rivlin.
Sela was commenting on an interview Culture Minister Miri Regev was giving on Channel 12's "Meet the Press" program.
"Miri Regev sits there and explains to Rina Matzliach that the public needs to watch out, because if Benny Gantz is elected he'll need to form a government with Arabs," Sela wrote on her Instagram story, which reaches her 824,000 followers.
"Rina Matzliach stayed silent. And I ask myself why Rina doesn't ask her in shock – 'and what's the problem with Arabs???' Oh my god, there are also Arab citizens in this country."
Sela continued, "When the hell will someone in this government broadcast to the public that Israel is a country for all its citizens. And every person was born equal. Arabs, too, God help us, are human beings. And so are the Druze. And so are gays, by the way, and lesbians, and…shock…leftists."
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After receiving a number of responses, Sela wrote in her Instagram story: "To everyone who wrote really disgusting things to me following my last story – I love everyone. Your revolting messages will never keep me from saying my opinion. A whole generation of children grew up in our country without hope for peace. And that's sad and depressing. If only the politicians whose voices are heard the loudest would be the ones to give real hope for peace, for equality and for love instead of incitement and separation."
On Sunday morning, Netanyahu responded to Sela on his own Instagram. He uploaded a picture of himself against the backdrop of an Israeli flag, and wrote, "Dear Rotem, an important correction: Israel is not a state of all its citizens. According to the Nation-State Law that we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish People - and them alone. As you wrote, there's no problem with the Arab citizens of Israel – they have the same rights as us all and the Likud government has invested in the Arab sector more than any other government."
"Likud only asks," the post continued, "to sharpen the central point of these elections: it's either a strong right-wing government led by me, or Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz's left-wing government with the support of the Arab parties. Lapid and Gantz have no other way to form a government, and a government like this will undermine the security of the state and citizens. The decision – another month at the ballot box. Have a nice day."
Miri Regev also responded on Sunday morning, tweeting: "Rotem, we don't have a problem with Arabs. Our party has more than a few Arab, Druze, and Christian members. We have a problem with the hypocrisy and masquerade of Lapid and Gantz, who are trying with all their might to hide from the public that they are the left disguised as the center."
Others took to the web to express their support for Rotem Sela's statements. Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Hadash party, tweeted: "In Israel 2019, to say that the meaning of democracy is a state for all its citizens and that Arabs need to be full citizens – yes, that demands great courage. Rotem Sela, we've never met, but cheers."
Meretz head Tamar Zandberg also voiced her support on Twitter: "Way to go Rotem Sela! Oh, and don't get worked up over the trolls that will come out now. They're probably the first people who need to read well what you wrote. All people are born equal."
Although some Twitter users criticized Sela's statements, others applauded them, calling her brave. "Rotem Sela, who served as an IDF secretary in Tel Aviv (I checked Wikipedia!) shows more courage than three generals in the reserves" said one user, referring to the leadership of the Kahol Lavan party. "That, in a nutshell, is the story of political discourse in Israel after 10 years of Netanyahu. Rotem, respect."