Dozens of Arab residents rioted in Nazareth Wednesday ahead of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit to the Galilee city. Police arrested at least 12 rioters.
Several Arab MKs also participated in the protest. MK Aida Toma Suleiman said that “we are here to demonstrate against Netanyahu’s attempt to trade vaccines to citizens for votes. He will not solicit votes from Nazareth, which is known for its patriotic line.”
MK Ofer Cassif said that “Netanyahu is the head of the instigators against the Arab public. Out of his mouth came words that ignited hatred and shed blood. Today’s visit to Nazareth was not intended to buy him votes, it was intended to create a rift in Arab society itself and thus weaken its political power. The spontaneous demonstration organized in front of him is a clear message: we will not let him get away with it.”
Netanyahu will visit the “Diana” vaccination center in Nazareth, after which he will hold a closed meeting with Ali Salam, the mayor of Nazareth. Salam expressed support for Likud activist Nail Zoabi, who is considered a staunch supporter of Netanyahu and wants to enter national politics.
Prime Minister Netanyahu tweeted earlier on Twitter: “At 4:15 PM, I will deliver an important speech from Nazareth live.”
Header: MK Saleh at anti-Netanyahu demonstration
Source: Arutz Sheva
Joint List politicians were quick to condemn the premier’s statements, including Ahmad Tibi who called it “an attempt to make [Arab Israelis] into useful idiots.”
“Arab voters will not be the rescue vehicle of Netanyahu. There’s nothing for him here in this election campaign,” said Joint List MK Sondos Saleh.
In his speech, Netanyahu claimed his now-famous warning in 2015 that Arabs were “voting in droves” was taken out of context. His remarks were widely seen as a racial dog whistle, implying that Arab citizens of Israel were a traitorous fifth column who, when exercising the right to vote, threatened Israeli security.
“They twisted my words,” said Netanyahu, adding that he meant they were voting for the Arab-majority Joint List party en masse, but was not expressing objections to their voting per se.
Regardless, he said, “I apologized then and I apologize today as well.”
And the prime minister promised that he will pass a wide-ranging plan to combat violence and organized crime in Arab communities “very soon.” In opinion polls, Arab Israelis have consistently pointed to solving the violence in Arab communities as their highest priority — the murder rate has gone up nearly 50 percent in four years.
Passing the anti-violence plan has become a major policy priority for Arab MKs. The plan was formulated by Netanyahu’s office in collaboration with the National Council of Arab Mayors and Arab civil society groups.
“Bibi, get out! Get out! Go home!” demonstrators chanted. The protesters were a mix of local Nazareth residents, as well as a notable sprinkling of Jewish anti-Netanyahu activists affiliated with The Black Flags protest movement, which seeks the premier’s resignation.
Nazareth mayor Ali Salam, who has voiced support for Netanyahu, scoffed at the turnout, which he deemed to be light. “Some people demonstrated, sure. If I were to demonstrate, I would have brought thousands with me,” Salam commented acidly.
Netanyahu thinks the Arab community has a “short memory,” added Joint List chair Ayman Odeh. “He won’t divide us into good Arabs and bad Arabs.”
“The only way to ensure the interests of the Arab community is a unified voice of Arab citizens and its Jewish partners who are fighting with honor and dignity for its interests — peace, equality, democracy, and social justice,” said Odeh, whose party has captured the vast majority of the Arab vote in recent elections.
The Joint List has been sliding in the polls recently, with some surveys showing it could drop from 15 to 10 seats in the Knesset. Netanyahu claimed on Wednesday that this was due in part to “the rising support for me and the Likud in Arab society.”
Joint List MKs, such as Aida Touma-Suleiman and Heba Yazbak, were also present at the protest. Touma-Suleiman bore a sign decrying Netanyahu’s support for the 2018 nation-state law. Former Knesset member Hanin Zoabi also showed up, holding a sign which declared: “We will sweep the Zionist parties out of Nazareth.”
Members of three of the Joint List’s four factions — Hadash, Ta’al and Balad — attended the protest. But no parliamentarians from Mansour Abbas’s renegade Ra’am faction turned out to demonstrate.
Abbas, a conservative Islamist politician, has been publically seeking a rapprochement with Netanyahu for some time. He has said he would be willing to consider being a minister in a right-wing government — or even vote to provide the indicted premier immunity from prosecution — in exchange for advancing the key priorities of Arab Israelis.
A Ra’am party official told The Times of Israel that senior members of the Islamic Movement were present at the demonstration, but that most of Ra’am’s parliamentarians were currently in quarantine.
Israel Police reported 19 arrests while forcefully clearing demonstrators away from the Clalit health clinic which the prime minister was visiting. Videos from the scene showed riot police dragging away demonstrators behind a barricade, including parliamentarians, despite the immunity granted by their status as Knesset members.
Joint List MK Saleh was taken to a hospital after being dragged away from the scene, with injuries in her hand and back.
“Even though they knew she was a member of Knesset, the police dragged her and pushed her forcefully, hurting her. They violated her parliamentary immunity,” a spokesperson for Saleh said in a statement.
“Netanyahu ought to translate his ‘sudden love’ for Arabs into nullifying the nation-state law, ending home demolitions and uprooting criminal organizations,” Tibi said.
Nazareth Mayor Salam, speaking alongside Netanyahu, expressed disappointment with the Joint List. Salam, one of Arab Israeli politics’ wild cards, has never supported the Joint List; he first rose to notoriety in a viral video showing him yelling at Joint List chair Ayman Odeh.
“We voted for them, [and] with all due respect, the Arab community is disappointed by them. They got our votes and did nothing,” Salam said.
Salam did make sure to mention the Palestinian cause, however.
“I am declaring from here, to the whole world, from Nazareth… we have a good life [here] and we will continue to live together in our country and our request is that you don’t forget to make peace with the Palestinians,” Salam told Netanyahu.