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Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel is ‘not a state of all its citizens’
PM has been accused of demonising Israeli Arabs in lead-up to April election

in Jerusalem

Sun 10 Mar 2019 14.01 GMT Last modified on Sun 10 Mar 2019 19.35 GMT
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Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu told a cabinet meeting Israel was the ‘nation state only
of the Jewish people’. Photograph: Gali Tibbon/AP
Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel is “not a state of all its citizens”, in
a reference to the country’s Arab population.

In comments on Instagram, the prime minister went on to say all citizens,
including Arabs, had equal rights, but he referred to a deeply controversial
law passed last year declaring Israel the nation state of the Jewish people.

“Israel is not a state of all its citizens,” he wrote in response to
criticism from an Israeli actor, Rotem Sela. “According to the basic
nationality law we passed, Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people –
and only it.


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“As you wrote, there is no problem with the Arab citizens of Israel. They
have equal rights like all of us and the Likud government has invested more
in the Arab sector than any other government,” he said of his rightwing
party.

As the comments caused waves in Israel, Netanyahu again spoke of the issue
at the start of a cabinet meeting. He called Israel a “Jewish, democratic
state” with equal rights, but “the nation state not of all its citizens but
only of the Jewish people”.

Netanyahu has been accused of demonising Israeli Arabs, who make up about
17% of the population, in an attempt to boost rightwing turnout in elections
due on 9 April.

He has continually warned that his opponents will receive the support of
Arab parties and that they will make significant concessions to the
Palestinians.


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Netanyahu, under threat of indictment for corruption, is facing a tough
challenge from a centrist political alliance led by Benny Gantz, a former
military chief of staff, and Yair Lapid, an ex-finance minister.

The alliance’s centrist positions and its security credentials – it includes
three former military chiefs of staff – have helped it beat back Netanyahu’s
claims that its leaders are “weak” leftists.

Arab parties would be extremely unlikely to be part of any coalition
government after elections.

Arab Israelis are Palestinians who remained on their land after the 1948
creation of Israel and are largely supportive of the Palestinian cause.

Netanyahu leads what is seen as the most rightwing government in Israel’s
history and says he wants a similar coalition after the upcoming polls.
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