Some Arab Council Heads Call to Boycott Meeting With Netanyahu on Curbing Violence in Arab Society

Those opposing the meeting say they refuse to be exploited by and take part in Netanyahu’s election campaign, who has visited three Arab cities in two weeks

Jack Khoury
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Anti-Netanyahu protests in Nazareth, January 13, 2021.
Anti-Netanyahu protests in Nazareth, January 13, 2021. Credit: Rami Chelouche
Jack Khoury

Arab council heads are calling to boycott a meeting by video conference slated for Sunday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scheduled to address the rising violence in Israel’s Arab communities.

The meeting sparked a disagreement between members of the committee of Arab council heads and the Joint List, who said they refuse to be taken advantage of by Netanyahu, and to play a part in his propaganda campaign in the March 23 elections.

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The meeting was orchestrated by the chairman of the Local Government Center Haim Bibas – a member of Netanyahu's Likud party – in coordination with Mudar Younes, the chairman of the local Arab councils committee. 

The pair wrote a letter to Netanyahu, requesting the advancement of legislation banning illegal weapons, outlawing criminal gangs, and allocation of funds that will go towards eliminating violence in Arab communities.

Meanwhile, Bibas is promoting a proposal to use 15 percent of the funds allocated to the development of Arab municipalities to establish programs for the same purpose. 

On Wednesday, dozens protested Netanyahu’s visit to Nazareth,  his third to an Arab city in two weeks. Protesters clashed with officers at the scene after they refused an order from the police to move the demonstration off the road and onto the sidewalk.

Netanyahu at the Clalit HMO in Nazareth, January 13, 2021. Credit: Gil Eliyahu

According to police, the protesters prevented police from putting up security fences ahead of Netanyahu's arrival. Nineteen protesters were detained. 

Arab council heads who hold senior positions in the local governments’ committee slammed the upcoming meeting with Netanyahu on Facebook, saying it would be a political exploitation of the government's incompetence in the fight against violence, and demanded to have it canceled.

Among the council heads who have already said they would not attend the meeting are Sakhnin Mayor Safwat Abu Raya; Kafr Kanna municipality head Yousef Awawdeh; Arraba Mayor Omar and Akkad Nassar; Kaukab Abu al-Hija council head Zahar Saleh; and Tira Mayor Mamoun Abd al-Hay.

However, several council heads who showed support for Bibas in the past are pushing to hold the meeting anyway. 

In a speech at the Nazareth Municipality, Netanyahu apologized for statements he made during his 2015 election campaign, in which he said "Arabs are heading to the polls in droves" in order to mobilize right-wing voters. He claimed that political figures distorted his words, and that he sought to warn against voting for the Joint List alone.

"My intention was not to warn about the fact that Arab citizens of Israel were voting in an election," Netanyahu said. "Every citizen of Israel, Arabs and Jews as one, must vote."

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