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Bibi Apologies for Arab Voter Comment

Says he never meant to offend Arab Israelis

Stephanie Butnick
March 23, 2015
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 11, 2015 in Netanya. (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 11, 2015 in Netanya. (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

The Israeli elections might be over, but the political fallout—not to mention the coalition building—has only just begun. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who won the election in a last-minute surge, has already been walking back some of his inflammatory pre-election statements about not supporting a two-state solution. Now the Times of Israel reports he’s apologized to Arab citizens for his most controversial remark, made in a Facebook video just hours before the polls closed last Tuesday, warning right-wing supporters that Arab voters were coming out “in droves” to vote for the new Arab Joint List.

“I know the things I said several days ago offended some of Israel’s citizens, hurt the Arab citizens,” Netanyahu told representatives of the Arab community at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem. “This was never my intent. I apologize for this.”

Though he largely elided blame with the construction of the apology, he essentially owned up to the scare tactics, adding that the video remarks aren’t in line with his policies. “My actions as prime minister, including the tremendous investment in minority communities, prove the opposite.” (He could have thrown in a ‘we’ve all done things on Facebook we regret’ here for good measure, but no one asked me.)

The Joint List rebuffed the apology, releasing a statement that said, “Racist legislation and exclusionary, discriminatory policies are Netanyahu’s working plan also for the coming Knesset, so we can only reject his apology and continue our struggle for equality for the Arab population.”

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.