Netanyahu doesn’t rule out placing Arab on Likud slate for next election

PM visits town of Tira amid reports of low vaccination rates in Arab community, urges all to get inoculated ‘to put our lives back on track’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a statement to the media in Jerusalem, on December 22, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a statement to the media in Jerusalem, on December 22, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited a vaccination center in the Arab Israeli city of Tira Thursday, amid speculation he could place an Arab politician on his Likud slate ahead of the March 23 elections.

According to Channel 12, asked about the possible placement of an Arab lawmaker on his right-wing list, Netanyahu told a reporter, “I don’t rule that out. I’ll sort out my issues with the Likud election committee and we’ll see.”

Netanyahu’s 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.”

In recent months, however, he appears to have formed a quiet alliance with the Joint List’s MK Mansour Abbas, to the chagrin of Abbas’s colleagues.

A Likud committee on Wednesday night approved Netanyahu’s request to cancel party primaries ahead of the upcoming elections, agreeing to keep the slate it had in the previous three elections other than six spots that will be reserved for the premier’s picks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits a vaccination center in Tira on December 31, 2020 (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

The prime minister visited a vaccination center in Tira to encourage Arab vaccination against COVID-19, amid reports that relatively few Arabs are heeding the call to get inoculated.

“Come and get vaccinated,” Netanyahu said in Arabic, adding in Hebrew that this was “what is needed to put our lives back on track.

“We’ve brought millions of vaccines… we’ve brought them for everyone: Jews, Arabs, religious and secular. The objective is to reach 5.5 million vaccinated. That will be enough to finish it.”

While vaccination centers have been erected in Arab towns and cities, many facilities reported that most of those waiting in line were Jews. In Umm al-Fahm, Shfaram, and Nazareth — three major Arab Israeli cities — more than 75 percent of those vaccinated over the past few days have been Jews.

Health officials have pointed to the spread of fake news and vaccine skepticism in the community as possible culprits.

Recent opinion polls have shown Netanyahu’s Likud ahead of its rivals as Israel heads to a new election in March, but without a clear path to forming a coalition, signaling the potential for ongoing political gridlock as the country holds its fourth election in two years.

Elections were called last week after the power-sharing government of Likud and Blue and White failed to agree on a budget by a December 23 deadline. They are set to take place on March 23, 2021.

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