UAE minister slams Netanyahu for ‘repugnant’ nation-state comments
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UAE minister slams Netanyahu for ‘repugnant’ nation-state comments

State minister for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash says PM’s claim that Israel is not a nation-state of all its citizens undermines peace

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash in an interview with AFP at his office in Dubai on June 7, 2017. (Giuseppe Cacace/AFP)
Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash in an interview with AFP at his office in Dubai on June 7, 2017. (Giuseppe Cacace/AFP)

A United Arab Emirates minister lashed out at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday for his comments last weekend in which he asserted Israel is not a nation-state of all of its citizens.

The UAE is believed to be one of a number of Gulf countries which has slowly cultivated ties with Israel over the past several years. Both the UAE and Israel view Iran as a major threat.

“Not only are PM Netanyahu’s comments that ‘Israel is not a state for all its citizens’ repugnant, but they provide vindication sought by extremists. The road to peace is further undermined by this shameful approach,” Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, tweeted.

Netanyahu made the comment on Sunday in a social media argument with a popular reality TV host who had earlier decried Likud campaign rhetoric for suggesting Arabs participating in the government would not bode well for Israel.

In the course of his spat with Rotem Sela, who is also a model and actress, Netanyahu stressed that Israel is “not a nation-state of all its citizens,” but rather “the nation-state of the Jewish people.”

Sela had written on her Instagram: “What is the problem with the Arabs???…Dear god, there are also Arab citizens in this country. When the hell will someone in this government convey to the public that Israel is a state of all its citizens and that all people were created equal, and that even the Arabs and the Druze and the LGBTs and — shock — the leftists are human.”

TV host, model and actress Rotem Sela. (CC-BY-SA-4.0 דבש סדן/Wikipedia)

Netanyahu shot back on his own Instagram account: “Dear Rotem, an important correction: Israel is not a state of all its citizens,” he wrote, using a term which could also be used in Hebrew to denote a bi-national state. “According to the nation-state law we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people — and not anyone else.”

The controversial nation-state law passed in July 2018 enshrined Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” but omitted a reference to the equality of all Israeli citizens akin to the one made in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.

Turkey also denounced Netanyahu on Tuesday for his remark that Israel is not the nation-state of all of its citizens.

“I strongly condemn this blatant racism and discrimination,” presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin wrote on his official Twitter account both in Turkish and English.

“1.6 million Arabs/Muslims live in Israel. Will the Western governments react or keep silent under pressure again?” he asked.

Turkey and Israel’s relations have long been tense, with Islamist Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who regards himself as a champion of the Palestinian cause, a vocal critic of Israeli policies.

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