Netanyahu Vowed to Turn 'Mizrahi Hatred of Arabs' Into Votes, Veteran Reporter Claims

Yedioth Ahronoth's Nahum Barnea claims Netanyahu told a fellow politician that only he knows how to get the Mizrahi vote.

Israel Arab representatives applauding Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Monday, March 23, 2015.
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What does Benjamin Netanyahu think about Mizrahi – or Sephardic – Jews? In the Friday edition of Yedioth Ahronoth, veteran journalist Nahum Barnea wrote that a few months ago, the prime minister told Finance Minister and Kulanu party chairman Moshe Kahlon: “You will never get the votes of the Mizrahim — only I know how to get them. I know who they hate: They hate the Arabs.”

Kahlon’s office denied the comments were ever made in a conversation between Netanyahu and Kahlon.

Yedioth Ahronoth's Nahum Barnea
Tomer Appelbaum

Netanyahu has a somewhat sordid history with Israel's Arab citizens. On Election Day, Netanyahu caused a storm by telling right wing voters that: “The rule of the right is in danger. Arab voters are streaming in droves to polling stations. Leftist NGOs are bringing them in buses. Go vote, with God’s help and yours we’ll establish a national government that will defend Israel.”

He later said he was "sorry" if the comments offended Israeli Arabs: "I know the things I said [] hurt some Israeli citizens. [But] my actions as prime minister, including massive investment in minority sectors, prove the exact opposite," he said.  

Since then, Netanyahu's government has even authorized a hefty five-year investment plan worth 10 billion shekels ($2.5 billion) for Israeli Arabs. However, this too has been marred by what some have called race-baiting.

Following the January 1 terror attack in Tel Aviv by an Israeli Arab, Netanyahu delivered a speech condemning lawlessness in Israeli Arab society, which many saw as an indictment of the entire community.

"Whoever wants to be Israeli must be Israeli all the way," he said. "I will not accept two states within Israel," following his comments with what seemed to be new conditions on the investment plan's implementation.

In recent weeks, Netanyahu has promoted a bill that would allow the Knesset to suspend lawmakers for "improper behavior" – a move which critics say would de facto target Israeli Arab lawmakers.