Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud online campaign materials appealed to voters to thwart the formation of a left-wing government, warning that such a coalition would partner with the Arab Israeli politicians, “who want to annihilate us all.”
Responding to criticism of the campaign, which urged Likud volunteers to adopt the campaign script in seeking to sway voters, the party on Wednesday disavowed the content as a “mistake by a campaign worker” and said it had not been approved by the prime minister.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu did not see these things, did not approve them, does not agree with them, and opposes them,” a statement said. “When the content was brought to his attention, he asked that it be taken down immediately.”
In response to the text, the head of the predominantly Arab Joint List party, Ayman Odeh, called the prime minister a “psychopath” and complained to Facebook.
“Netanyahu is a psychopath with no red lines,” fumed Odeh. “He wants blood. This disgraceful criminal will continue his bloodletting of us as long as he believes it will help him avoid prison.
“We contacted Facebook,” he continued. “They must work immediately to put an end to this dangerous, racist incitement by Netanyahu against the Arab population.”
Netanyahu’s warning that his defeat in next week’s polls would result in the formation of a left-wing coalition with Arab support has been a centerpiece of his campaign, along with a bid to allow party operatives to bring cameras into polling stations.
Netanyahu’s cabinet on Sunday unanimously approved legislation to allow cameras into polling stations, with the prime minister insisting the bill was only intended to prevent voter fraud, which Likud claims is rampant in some Arab-majority areas. Though the bill was subsequently held up in committee and can no longer be passed before the elections, the ruling party was nevertheless planning to bring it to a first vote later Wednesday.
Likud warned that opponents of the bill want to “steal” the national vote.
During the April 9 elections, Likud equipped some 1,200 polling officials working at ballot stations in Arab population centers with hidden body cameras to prevent what the party claims was widespread fraud that has occurred in the community.
Critics charged that Likud’s efforts were a form of voter intimidation designed to keep the non-Jewish minority from the polls, a claim seemingly corroborated by the company contracted by Likud to carry out the operation.
On election day in 2015, Netanyahu famously warned that Arabs were voting “in droves” in a bid to get out right-wing voters, comments for which he was pilloried and later apologized.