Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 June 2019

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs says Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks 'repugnant'

Prime Minister Netanyahu lambasted after calling Israel a 'nation state of the Jewish people and them alone'

The UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash. EPA
The UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash. EPA

The UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash, has called Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent comments on Israeli citizens “repugnant”.

Dr Gargash’s criticism follows the Israeli Prime Minister's remarks on Monday in which he referred to Israel as the “nation state of the Jewish people and them alone.”

“Not only are PM Netanyahu’s comments that ‘Israel is not a state for all its citizens’ repugnant, but they provide vindication sought by extremists,” Dr Gargash tweeted. “The road to peace is further undermined by this shameful approach.”

Mr Netanyahu addressed "slightly confused people" on Sunday, after an Israeli celebrity defended the rights of Israel's Arab population. Arabs comprise about 20 per cent of Israel's 9 million residents.

In theory, they have full citizenship rights but are often treated as second-class citizens and have faced decades of discrimination.

On Saturday, actress Rotem Sela denounced Mr Netanyahu's frequent talking point that his political rival will form a government with Arab political parties.

"When the hell will someone in this government tell the public that Israel is a country of all its citizens," Ms Sela wrote on Instagram.

To which Mr Netanyahu responded: Israel "is the national state, not of all its citizens, but only of the Jewish people."

During the spat Israeli Hollywood star Gal Gadot leapt to defend her fellow actress saying: "This isn't a matter of right or left. Jew or Arab. Secular or religious.

"It's a matter of dialogue, of dialogue for peace and security and of our tolerance of one towards the other."

Israel’s President also launched a withering attack on Prime Minister Netanyahu about his recent comments..

Reuven Rivlin, whose role is largely symbolic, was delivering a speech at a Jerusalem conference about Egyptian-Israeli relations and, while making no mention of Mr Netanyahu by name, addressed the Prime Minister’s statement.

“We must get to the point where we are truly able to say: 'No more war and bloodshed between Israelis and Arabs. Between Israel and all Arabs',” Mr Rivlin said.

“I refused and refuse to believe that there are political parties that have surrendered the character of Israel as a Jewish and democratic, democratic and Jewish, state.

"Those who believe that the State of Israel must be Jewish and democratic in the full sense of the word must remember that the State of Israel has complete equality of rights for all its citizens.

He went on to condemn the “entirely unacceptable remarks about the Arab citizens of Israel”. He appeared to refer to right-wing parties who have used the threat of the country’s largest Arab party joining Mr Netanyahu’s main challenge at the polls as a reason not to vote for anyone else but him.

“There are no, and there will be no, second-class citizens, and there are no second-class voters,” Mr Rivlin said. “We are all equal in the voting booth.”

Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev said in an interview last week that Benny Gantz, the head of the Blue and White faction that is ahead of Mr Netanyahu in the polls, will have to rely on the Arab vote to defeat the Israeli leader.

The Arab Joint List is Israel’s third-largest party and its leader Ayman Odeh has said that he will be willing to enter into a coalition with Mr Gantz if it means it will prevent an “extremist government” led by Mr Netanyahu entering into power again.

Mr Rivlin also appeared to aim criticism at Israel’s Nation State Law, which was passed in July last year and rules that Israel is the “national home of the Jewish people” while omitting the country’s minorities, such as Arabs and members of the Druze community.

“Jews and Arabs, citizens of the State of Israel. One hundred and twenty Knesset members cannot change its character as a Jewish state; and 120 MKs won’t be able to change its democratic character,” he said.

Updated: March 13, 2019 10:15 AM

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