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, Israel’s largest Arab city, on Wednesday.
During the visit, Netanyahu greeted the mayor of Nazareth, Ali Salam, promising him a safe place on the Likud list for the Knesset elections scheduled for late March.
The Israeli leader also pledged to increase budget spending and strengthen laws to stem criminal violence, which increasingly worries Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Police arrested 10 people after Netanyahu’s visit sparked protests in the city.
Wadie Abu Nassar, director of the Haifa-based International Consultations Center, told Arab News that the Israeli leader is a “magician and his last prize is the Arab community.”
He added: “This is the first time in years that Netanyahu has needed every vote, including Arabs, because of the challenges he faces from his opponents. But he is a magician in politics and can never be counted out of any race.
Joint List Arab alliance leader Ayman Odeh said the Israeli prime minister imagines the Arab community to have a “short memory.”
“The only way to ensure that the interests of the Arab community are respected is to make heard the unified voice of Arab citizens and their Jewish partners who fight with honor and dignity for peace, equality, democracy and justice social.
In a tweet, Odeh also accuses Netanyahu of trying to drive a wedge between Arab Israelis.
Referring to clashes between police and protesters, he said: “If this is what your attempts at reconciliation look like, you better stay home.”
During the visit, Netanyahu referred to his quote from 2015 when he allegedly opposed the Arab vote in Israel saying they “came in droves to vote.”
“People misunderstood what I meant,” he says. “I did not oppose the Arab vote, I only said that they voted en masse for the common list.”
Netanyahu also said that Jews and Arabs “dance the streets of Dubai, so why shouldn’t they work together in Israel?”
The Israeli prime minister criticized the Common 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 was exploiting the good nature of Arabs.
“He uses the agreements he made with Arab countries, and tries to use the fact that the Arabs have been disappointed by Benny Gantz and the Zionist left, to offer himself as an effective alternative. The Common List has been shattered and Netanyahu is using it to make progress. “
In the last election, the Common List won 15 seats, but is expected to gain 10 more seats in the upcoming ballot.