Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said Friday he would examine whether he had authority to prevent the chairman of the Hadash party’s Haifa branch from being appointed as the northern coastal city’s deputy mayor, calling him a supporter of terror groups.
“Raja Za’atara, a member of the Haifa city council, expressed his support for Hezbollah and Hamas, supported the boycott of Israel and expressed support for activity against Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,” Deri wrote on twitter.
“Such a person can not be appointed deputy mayor as is requested by the Haifa municipality,” he added.
Za’atara, who is set to serve as deputy mayor during the second half of the mayoral term, had in an interview insinuated that the Islamic State had been inspired by acts committed by Zionists, and while he served as the Joint (Arab) List’s head of public relations during the 2015 election campaign claimed that Hamas was not a terrorist organization.
Hadash, a joint Arab-Jewish party, is a member of the Joint List umbrella party.
Za’atara has in the past also expressed support for Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, according to Haaretz.
Likud Lawmaker Yoav Kisch on Thursday had written to Deri, asking him to bar Za’atara from the job.
Speaking to Haaretz, Za’atara said he was primarily concerned about serving the people who elected him, and added the claims against him were the result of the Shas and Likud parties’ frustration over being left out of the Haifa municipality coalition.
Likud and Shas, he said, were attempting to show “who is more inciting against Arabs and who is more patriotic.”
Haifa’s newly elected mayor Einat Kalisch Rotem did not respond to Deri’s tweet, although earlier this week she wrote in Facebook that she was committed to advancing equality and fair representation for the city’s Arab population, and added that she stood by her decision to join with Hadash (which ran under the name Haifa Front in the city) in the coalition.
“Haifa is a mixed city, multifaceted, complex, the secret of its beauty lies precisely in this, in its extraordinary human mosaic,” Kalisch Rotem wrote.
“Of the three factions of the Arab public that competed for the municipality, Hadash was the only party that managed to enter. The Arab population is part of our city, an important part, and we must respect the will of its voters,” she concluded.