Arab Israeli leader defends Arafat street sign

Arab Israeli leader defends Arafat street sign
Updated 06 March 2017

Arab Israeli leader defends Arafat street sign

Arab Israeli leader defends Arafat street sign

JERUSALEM: A top Arab Israeli politician on Monday defended naming a street in northern Israel after the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to remove it.
The small Arab Israeli town of Jatt recently inaugurated Yasser Arafat Street in honor of the former Palestinian president, a hero to Palestinians and many Arab Israelis but loathed by many Israeli Jews.
On Sunday, the Jatt council decided to remove “all the controversial street signs,” including the Arafat sign, and replace them with different names, according to a report on Channel 10 television.
The local municipality did not comment on Monday, but Israeli media reported signage had been removed after Netanyahu’s threat.
Ayman Odeh, head of the predominantly Arab Joint List coalition in the Israeli Parliament, said Arafat was a “symbol.”
“He is a leader of the national liberation movement and he chose peace and negotiations and he won the Nobel Peace Prize,” Odeh told journalists.
“It is completely your right to say ‘I am completely against this man,’” he added, but said streets in Jewish neighborhoods had sometimes been named after far-right politicians and even assailants.
“I cannot accept this is OK but calling a street after Yasser Arafat is not OK.”
Arab Israelis are descendants of Palestinians who remained after Israel’s creation in 1948, and account for about 17.5 percent of the country’s 8 million population.
Jatt has a population of some 11,000.
Speaking at the start of a Sunday Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said: “No street in the state of Israel will be named after murderers of Israelis and Jews.”
“We will make the arrangements, including new legislation if need be, so that this does not happen here.”
Meanwhile, police grilled Netanyahu at his official Jerusalem home on Monday in a long-running investigation into corruption suspicions, local media said.
“The fourth round of questioning of PM Netanyahu has begun at his residence,” Israel Hayom daily, considered close to the premier, reported on its website.
Public radio said that national fraud squad detectives arrived at the city center house shortly before 5 p.m. (1500 GMT).
It said they were expected to interrogate him over suspicions of unlawfully receiving gifts from wealthy supporters, including Australian billionaire James Packer.
They would be looking for his response to testimony given by Israeli businessman and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, a friend of both Netanyahu and Packer.
Milchan also figures in allegations of improper gifts accepted by the prime minister and his wife Sara, allegedly including expensive cigars and champagne.

Shootout
Israeli police said a Palestinian militant was killed in a shootout with Israeli forces in the West Bank.
Police said Israeli forces early Monday entered the Ramallah area in the West Bank to arrest Al-Araj, and he opened fire, leading to a shootout that killed him. The police published photos of two firearms it said were found on the scene.