Netanyahu Cuts Short Meeting With Druze Leaders on Nation-state Law

'I stand behind those statements,' says former Druze military officer on recent Facebook post saying nation-state law could lead to apartheid, 'but Netanyahu is the one who suddenly brought them up in the meeting to torpedo it'

Netanyahu with leaders of the Druze community, Thursday August 2, 2018
Olivier Fitoussi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short a meeting with Druze representatives about the nation-state law Thursday night in anger over a reference to apartheid made on Facebook by a former Druze military officer.

One of the participants, Brig. Gen. (res.) Amal Assad, told Netanyahu that he wasn’t willing to accept the prime minister’s proposal for separate legislation on the status of the Druze community, insisting instead on an amendment to the nation-state law. The parties then agreed to take a break.

When they returned, according to Assad and other participants, Netanyahu told Assad that in the past he had refered to Israel as "an apartheid state," referring to a Facebook post written by Assad, in which he wrote the nation-state law could turn Israel into an apartheid state.

Assad responded he stood behind his statements in the post. Netanyahu then said he wouldn’t accept such an “insult to the dignity of the prime minister of Israel and the dignity of the state.” 

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"I hadn't even brought up the subject of apartheid in the meeting. Netanyahu was addressing the things I had written on Facebook in recent days" said Assad. "I stand behind those statements, but Netanyahu is the one who suddenly brought them up in the meeting to torpedo it."

Earlier on Thursday, Druze demonstrators tried to stop MK Avi Dichter (Likud), the sponsor of the nation-state law, from speaking at a ceremony awarding scholarships to 80 Druze who had completed their military or civilian national service. Only 40 people attended the ceremony, so the auditorium at ORT Braude College in Carmiel remained largely empty.

Two of the demonstrators, Dr. Amir Hanifas, who heads an ad hoc forum fighting the nation-state law, and Yusef Hanifas, climbed on the stage, yelled that Dichter was a racist and urged the students to leave. The two hurled insults at Dichter, such as “You’re second-class,” “He hurt everyone,” “You should be ashamed of yourself,” “Go home” and “Get off the stage.” 

One of them shouted, “Avi, you’re hurting the Druze community. Look me in the eye, we’re at war.” He then told the participants, who were still sitting in their seats, “You should be ashamed of yourselves, get out.”

Policemen removed the two men from the hall after a few minutes while security guards protected Dichter.