In Nazareth, Netanyahu declares ‘new era’ of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel

During a visit to Nazereth, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declares a “new era” of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel and attempts to clarify his 2015 election day warning against the Arab vote.

The Likud leader is seeking to court the Arab vote ahead of the March elections, in an about-face from his party’s previous unsubstantiated warnings of electoral fraud in Arab communities.

“Whoever says that we only remembered the Arab sector because of the elections — either he’s lying or he does not know the facts,” Netanyahu says.

In his speech, he claims his now-famous warning that Arabs were “voting in drove” was taken out of context.

“They twisted my words,” says Netanyahu, adding that he meant they were voting for the Joint List en masse, but was not expressing objections to their voting per se.

Illustrative: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu poses for a photograph with pupils on the first day of school in the Israeli Arab town of Tamra, Thursday, September 1, 2016. (AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

“In the 2015 elections, my intention was not to warn about the Israeli Arab vote, but rather to warn against voting for the Joint List that later opposed four historic peace deals that I reached,” says Netanyahu. “All citizens of Israel, Jewish and Arabs, must vote — it’s a democratic right.”

Netanyahu declares a “new era” for Jewish and Arab relations in Israel.

“If Jews and Arabs can dance together in the streets of Dubai, they can dance together here in Israel. A new era begins today, of prosperity, integration and security.”

He promises that he will pass a wide-ranging plan to combat violence and organized crime in Arab communities “very soon.”

“Very soon, I will present this plan to the government and the public and I promise — we will execute it,” Netanyahu says.

Netanyahu had already promised to pass the plan in November while speaking to a Knesset parliamentary committee. Netanyahu also announces that municipal heads will be able to take up to 15% of their allocated budgets and use it to enhance personal security and fight crime.

Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.