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March 23, 2015 2:25 pm

Netanyahu Apologizes for Campaign Remarks About Arabs, Says ‘I am Prime Minister of All Israelis’

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Prime Minister Netanyahu receives a standing ovation from his Israeli Arab guests at the prime minister's residence. Photo: Facebook.

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.”

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  • Paul

    What a mispresentation !
    You are either misinformed or cynically hypocritical.
    Bibi resorted to cheap, immoral tactics to win votes while causing tremendous damage to the entire country.
    He did NOT apologise to the Israeli arabs, and they have rejected his statement that he is sorry. He said he is sorry they were offended, he did not intend that. (Really ? what DID he intend ? How DID he think they would feel ?) Saying “I am sorry you feel that way” is not an apology, it is a cop out. I could call someone a criminal – and then say I am sorry they feel offended, without retracting my accusation.
    HE actually invited tens of Arab Municipal leaders to this meeting, and only three – who are likud politicians – accepted – and this is the warm reception you describe.
    By appealing to the base reflexes of his supporters, who he is a master at manipulating, he won a few more mandates. Tricky Dicky. Presenting the Arabs as he did rushed many right wing supporters to the ballots to vote Bibi. And by announcing he will not agree to a two-state solution he won over quite a few mandates from Bennet. But at what cost to the country ?
    Ironically, despite the immediate gain of herding his shallow-thinking supporters to give him more seats, his actions may have caused great damage to the right-wing cause over time – which would be poetic justice. His despicable behaviour may well backfire: The results of arousing anti-arab sentiment resulted in a larger-than-usual arab turnout, who responded to their feeling of outrage by going to THEIR polls. (Making this a self-fulfilling prophecy). Thus bibi’s statement has actually increased the political strength of the Israeli Arabs. And the turnabout regarding the 2-state solution, followed the next day by a pathetic, unconvincing attempt to backtrack have showed him to be an untrustworthy liar and a bigot in the eyes of the world. He has proven to the USA that Israeli no longer shares the western liberal values that have been the basis of US support. At a time when Israel is facing terrible international isolation, bibi has made things far worse. He may have won a few more mandates, but he may well have brought an enforced solution on Israel – a far worse solution that a negotiated one.
    If he were honest, he would tell his voters “I lied to you on election day to get a few more seats”. (Perhaps not: perhaps he lied before and after election day, and on election day he told the truth ?) We are all left with the choice to decide when he is actually lying – when he says he supports the 2 states solution, or when he denies it.

  • Mickey Oberman

    Israelis apologize far too often.

    They have done nothing for which they must say sorry.

  • Eitan Rosenberg

    What a shmuck

  • Steve Loeb

    And I predict this will still not be good enough for Obama who needs it as an excuse to upend decades of US policy in order to diminish Israel which has always been his goal.