Israel's Nation-state Law Not Meant to Harm Arabs, but Stop 'Infiltrators,' Netanyahu Tells Arab Daily

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Likud campaign posters aimed at Israeli Arab voters, this week
Likud campaign posters aimed at Israeli Arab voters, this weekCredit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday that Israel's controversial Nation-State Law was not enacted against Arab citizens, but rather to prevent ‘illegal infiltration’ from Africa.

The law was passed by the Knesset in July 2018, enshrining that "Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people" into quasi-constitutional status. It is also designed to alter the application of the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty in court rulings, and permit judges to give priority to Israel’s Jewish character in their rulings. 

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In an interview with Arabic-language newspaper published on Saturday, the premier said that although the law makes Hebrew the official language and stipulates that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, it does not abolish the status of the Arabic language and "there are many other laws guaranteeing equal rights for all citizens.” 

Netanyahu also said that there is a lack of understanding regarding the significance of the law in Israel, and insisted that similar laws exist in many democracies around the world, including in Europe, but did not elaborate. 

In response, Joint List lawmaker Aida Toma-Suleiman said: "The racist Netanyahu thinks we Arab people are idiots. He thinks that we can be lied to our faces and that we will buy it. Maybe Bibi also started believing his own lies. The nation-state law is a law that constitutionalizes Jewish supremacy and the foundations of an apartheid regime led by Netanyahu."

As part of the current election campaign, Netanyahu frequently visits Arab localities throughout the country. Although the official stated purpose of some of the visits was to encourage immunization, many Israeli Arabs view his visits as a political act aimed at exploiting the rift between the Joint List and the United Arab List to attract Arab voters to Likud

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to a health clinic in Tira in DecemberCredit: Tomer Appelbaum

According to official Likud figures, in the 2020 election, the party received about 11,000 votes in the Arab and Druze localities, and probably hundreds more in mixed localities -- slightly more than it had in 2019, when the party received about 9,000 votes in each of the two elections held that year.