AMMAN: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been accused of cynically courting the Arab vote to ensure his own political survival.
Claims that the Israeli leader was exploiting the “good nature” of Arabs were made after he made a surprise visit to Nazareth, the largest Arab town in Israel, on Wednesday.
During the visit Netanyahu greeted Nazareth’s mayor, Ali Salam, promising him a safe spot in the Likud’s list for the Knesset elections due in late March.
The Israeli leader also promised to increase budget spending and strengthen laws to stem criminal violence causing growing concern among Israel’s Palestinian citizens.
Police arrested 10 people after Netanyahu’s visit sparked protests in the town.
Wadie Abu Nassar, director of the Haifa-based International Center for Consultations, told Arab News that the Israel leader is a “magician and his latest prize is the Arab community.”
He added: “This is the first time in years that Netanyahu needs every vote, including Arabs, because of the challenges he is facing from his opponents. But he is a magician in politics and can never be counted out of any race.”
Head of the Joint List Arab alliance, Ayman Odeh, said that the Israeli prime minister imagines that the Arab community has a “short memory.”
“The only way to ensure the interests of the Arab community are met is through the unified voice of Arab citizens and their Jewish partners who are fighting with honor and dignity for peace, equality, democracy and social justice.”
In a tweet, Odeh also accusing Netanyahu of attempting to drive a wedge between Arab Israelis.
Referring to clashes between police and protesters, he said: “If this is what your reconciliation attempts look like, better to stay home.”
During the visit Netanyahu referred to his 2015 quote when he allegedly opposed Arabs voting in Israel with the comment that they are “coming in droves to vote.”
“People misunderstood what I meant,” he said. “I didn’t oppose the Arab vote, I only said that they are voting in droves for the Joint List.”
Netanyahu also said that Jews and Arabs are “dancing in the streets of Dubai, so why shouldn’t they be working together in Israel?”
The Israeli prime minister slammed the Joint List for opposing normalization treaties between Israel and four Arab countries.
Botrus Mansour, a Nazareth-based lawyer, told Arab News that the Israeli prime minister is exploiting the good nature of Arabs.
“He is using the agreements he made with Arab countries, and trying to use the fact that Arabs were disappointed with Benny Gantz and the Zionist left, to offer himself as an effective alternative. The Joint List has been splintered and Netanyahu is using that to make inroads.”
In the last elections, the Joint List gained 15 seats, but is expected to gain 10 more seats in the coming poll.