Eli Yishai, the leader of the far-right Yachad party, took an Arab MK to task on Thursday for her ostensible visit to the Palestinian city of Ramallah, but ended up with his foot in his mouth after it turned out that she had in fact visited the Israeli town of Ramle.
The confusion began when a group of politicians from the Arab Joint List, including fiery MK Hanin Zoabi, headed to Ramle, a mixed Arab-Jewish town in central Israel, apparently for some pre-election campaigning.
Yishai’s campaign headquarters, under the impression that the group was heading to Ramallah, was quick to blast Zoabi, who has in the past raised Israelis’ hackles for her provocative statements supporting the Palestinians and condemning IDF soldiers, and for her participation in the Mavi Marmara flotilla to Gaza.
“Zoabi’s actions prove again and again that her place is in the Gaza parliament,” the statement said. “A person who harms IDF soldiers in the Mavi Marama flotilla, doesn’t recognize the existence of the State of Israel and is meeting with Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] in Ramallah, must not serve as an official representative of the State of Israel.”
Ramallah, in the central West Bank, is the seat of the Palestinian Authority government.
“Zoabi’s action testifies to the true intention of some of the Arab Joint List whose goal is a violation of sovereignty, the state and its institutions,” Yishai continued, referring to the union of Arab political parties that joined together ahead of next week’s election.
Emilie Moatti, the Joint List spokeswoman, responded with a message posted to her Twitter account.
“Eli Yishai was quick to put out a notification about a visit by representatives of the Joint List to Ramallah, with all the cliches and racism. But, they visited Ramle, Eli. The city near Lod. Do you know it?”
Once the geographical faux pas had been detected, the Yachad party defended its comments and explained that the information had come from a credible source.
“We would like to point out that a visit by Zoabi to Ramallah, or the Gaza Strip, is not a fantasy given her behavior in recent years — even as a member of Knesset — against the state and IDF soldiers.”
The Joint List responded to Yishai’s comments by suggesting that the Yachad leader had come off the worse for wear.
“With his outrageous response he not only made a joke of himself, but also demonstrated geographic boorishness about the area, which should be a concern to his handful of voters,” the statement said.
Yachad is heading for 4-5 seats in Tuesday’s elections, according to most polls, while the Joint (Arab) List is seen likely to win 12-13 seats.