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Israeli Arabs Furious Over Netanyahu 'Citizen' Comments


FILE - Israeli Arabs and their supporters take part in a rally to protest against Jewish nation-state law in Rabin square in Tel Aviv, Israel, Aug. 11, 2018.

Arab citizens of Israel have been expressing anger over recent comments by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said Israel "is not a country of all its citizens." Some Israeli Arabs are calling for a boycott of Israel’s election.

The first shots of the battle played out on Instagram, with actress and model Rotem Sela posting "When the hell will someone in the government convey to the public that Israel is a state of all its citizens."

FILE - Rotem Sela, one of Israel's top models and TV hosts, during a tv reality show filming near Jerusalem, Feb. 12, 2019.
FILE - Rotem Sela, one of Israel's top models and TV hosts, during a tv reality show filming near Jerusalem, Feb. 12, 2019.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly responded. “Dear Rotem, an important correction: Israel is not a state of all its citizens. According to the nation-state law we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people — and not anyone else.”

The exchange comes less than two months before the Israeli elections and infuriated Arab citizens of Israel, who make up 20 percent of Israeli voters.

It comes after the Israeli election commission said that one Arab party, Balad, cannot run in the election because its members allegedly support terrorism, a charge they deny. At the same time, the commission approved an extremist Jewish party that calls for Arabs to leave Israel.

Aida Toumi Sliman, an Israeli Arab Knesset member, said the election is crucial for the future of democracy in Israel.

"The next government will determine if this country is going a little bit to the situation of democracy of human rights of equality or is it going to be clearly an apartheid regime with a legal system that is supporting the practices of an apartheid regime," she said.

She said her party is appealing to the Supreme Court against the decision to bar the Arab party Balad.

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