Netanyahu says Likud working to pick up Arab Israeli voters

Prime Minister Netanyahu insists during a meeting this evening of the Likud secretariat that he can turn out Arab Israelis to vote for the party in the March 23 Knesset elections, according to Hebrew media reports.

“I believe in Jabotinsky’s doctrine that all rights need to be given to every citizen in the State of Israel. We’re reaching out to Arab voters — vote for us. I’ll sit tomorrow with [Public Security] Minister Ohana to bring [about] a plan against crime and violence in Arab society,” Netanyahu is quoted saying by the Walla news site.

The comments came after Netanyahu visited a pair of Arab cities to tout Israel’s vaccine drive and a TV report said the premier was looking to both gain seats with the backing of Arab voters and dent support for the Joint List.

The new messaging marks a shift in tone by Netanyahu, whose Likud has campaigned in the past on unfounded claims of electoral fraud in Arab communities. He has repeatedly demonized Arab lawmakers in the Knesset and gained global notoriety for warning his supporters on election day 2015 that “Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves.”

“I’m not moved by the criticism about this. We’re not reaching out to politicians but the public,” he told Likud officials this weekend, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

A number of Netanyahu’s political rivals hit out at him following the leaks of his comments to the Likud secretariat.

“After years of inaction the prime minister remembered this evening to talk about putting together a plan to eradicate crime in Arab society,” New Hope chief Gideon Sa’ar tweets.

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid shares a video clip of Netanyahu’s “Arab voters… in droves” comments.

“If you’re a liar, think carefully before you lie. If you’re a liar, you need to have a good memory, so they won’t expose your lie,” Lapid, who heads the Yesh Atid-Telem party, writes on Twitter.

Joint List leader Ayman Odeh accuses Netanyahu of insulting Arab voters’ intelligence.

“We already knew that Netanyahu doesn’t believe we’re equal, but his new effort to garner votes also proves that he disparages the intelligence of Arab society. A decade of indifference to crime, inciting violence, fanning hate won’t be erased in an election campaign,” Odeh tweets.