Netanyahu Apologizes for Comment Disparaging Mizrahi Jews

When asked why he wants to yet another delay in new broadcaster, prime minister said his 'Mizrahi gene burst.'

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, February 19, 2017.
Olivier Fitoussi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized on Twitter Friday for a comment made one day prior that some interpreted as disparaging toward Israel's Mizrahi community, or Jews of Middle Eastern and North African origin.

"I didn't intend to offend anyone," wrote Netanyahu. "The very fiber of my soul is connected to all of Israel's ethnicities and I appreciate their tremendous contribution to the tradition of our people and the building of our nation."

Netanyahu's comment came during a meeting Thursday with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon regarding a political crisis that's centered Netanyahu's attempt to delay the opening of Israel's new public broadcaster. 

The two came to an agreement at the meeting that the launch date would not be postponed, despite Netanyahu's recent request to do so, and after it had been delayed in the past. Kahlon asked why Netanyahu had requested another delay in the first place, to which the prime minister responded, "My Mizrahi gene burst," a sarcastic phrasing that seems to suggest that Mizrahi Jews are hotheaded.

Kahlon is himself of Moroccan descent.

Netanyahu and Kahlon also agreed at the meeting to promote a new media bill in cooperation with all coalition parties. The bill is not expected to pass as currently drafted and will be subject to changes, including to clauses that give significant political power to the government and communications minister.