Netanyahu Apologizes for Campaign Remarks About Arabs, Says ‘I am Prime Minister of All Israelis’
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu on Monday night apologized for controversial comments he made on the eve of elections last Tuesday and for any offense caused to Israel’s Arab population.
“I know that the words that I said some days ago offended Israel’s Arabs. I did not intend at all that this would happen. I am very sorry about that,” he said while hosting representatives from Israel’s minority communities at the prime minister’s residence, including the leadership of Israel’s Arab communities.
His apology was met with applause from his Israeli Arab guests and enthusiastic chants of “Bibi! Bibi!”
“My actions as prime minister, which include huge investments in the minority sectors, demonstrate the total opposite,” Netanyahu then added, explaining that his policies have been indicative of his respect for Israel’s Arabs.
Netanyahu made the controversial comments in a 28-second video posted to his Facebook page on March 17. In the clip, he warned that the “rule of the right is in danger” because “leftist organizations” – a reference to the foreign-funded V15 activist group and others – were bringing Arab voters “in droves” to the polls, and strengthening the rival Joint Arab List and Zionist Union parties. The video was intended to encourage Likud voters to head to the polls and strengthen the party’s performance on election day.
Explaining the intentions behind the controversial statement, Netanyahu said on Monday night, “I think, by that same measure, that it is forbidden for any official from outside of the State of Israel to involve themselves in our democratic process.”
Netanyahu emphasized to his audience: “I see myself as the prime minister of each and every one of you, of all of the citizens of Israel, without distinction over religion, race or gender. This is how it was, and how it will continue to be.” As the audience enthusiastically applauded his comments, Netanyahu continued, “I see all of Israel’s citizens as partners in building the State of Israel, which will be strong and united, for the benefit all of its citizens.”
He ended the address to his guests by saying that this would happen “With God’s help, and with your help.” Many of the audience members then rose to their feet to embrace the prime minister and kiss him on the cheek in the traditional manner.
Netanyahu’s personal Facebook account described the gathering at the prime minister’s residence as “warm and emotional.” Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, opened up the meeting saying: “We are very thankful that you have come here. The prime minister’s residence is the home of all of Israel’s citizens.”