Jerusalem, March 24 (IANS) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday apologised to the Arab Israelis in a bid to walk back his controversial comment made at the height of last week’s parliament election.
In a statement, Netanyahu made the apology to members of the Arab community in an apparent attempt to heal rifts and quell criticism from home and abroad, Xinhua reported.
Just a few hours before polling stations were to close across Israel, he said the Arab Israelis are being bussed “in droves” by left-wing organisations in order to topple his government.
His election day statement garnered harsh criticism from within Israel and abroad, from centre-left politicians, from the Israeli president, as well as the White House.
“I know that what I said a few days ago offended some of Israel’ s citizens, offended Israeli Arabs. I had no intention in doing so, I am sorry for this,” Netanyahu said in the statement.
“My actions as prime minister, including major investments in the minorities sector, prove the complete opposite. I also think no element outside the state of Israel should interfere in our democratic process,” Netanyahu added, referring to his claims that European government and foreign bodies funded left-wing organizations in order to topple his regime. He did not offer prove for these claims.
“I view myself as prime minister of each and every one of you, all Israeli citizens, regardless of religion, race and gender,” Netanyahu said.
However, Arab politicians were not impressed by Netanyahu’s apology.
Leader of the Joint List, Aymen Odeh, wrote on his Facebook page that Netanyahu’s apology is “deceitful.”
“As long as Netanyahu promotes racist legislation and does not promote real equality, his apology is not accepted or credible in any way,” Odeh said.
Members of the Arab Joint List also turned to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein last week, following the controversial remark, in order to try Netanyahu for his comments.
According to the final election results, the Zionist Union list got 24 seats, and will serve in the opposition in the next parliament.
Netanyahu is tasked with forming the next Israeli government, after 67 members of parliament recommended him to the president as the candidate with the best options of establishing a government.