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Not my intention to hurt Arab-Israeli sentiments: Netanyahu on racist remarks

March 24, 2015 12:47 IST

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has apologised to Israel's Arab citizens for racist remarks he made during last week's parliamentary election, a move rejected by community leaders in the Jewish state as another "zigzag".

"I know that the things I said a few days ago hurt some citizens in Israel, the Arab Israeli citizens," Netanyahu told representatives of the community.

"This was not my intention and I am sorry," the Israeli Prime Minister said.

Netanyahu's Election Day remarks have attracted worldwide criticism and deplored as divisive politics employed to gain another term in office.

"The Right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are going en masse to the polls. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them on buses," the Israeli Premier had said in a message posted on his Facebook page while the polls were on the Election Day.

The Israeli leader on Monday evening said that as Prime Minister he makes enormous investments in minority communities which prove the opposite of his comments last week.

Netanyahu also emphasised that foreign elements outside of Israel should not be allowed to intervene in Israeli democracy.

In his controversial remarks on Election Day, he had also said that "funding from foreign governments to get more Israeli Arabs to vote worked, which means all Right-wing voters must make sure to go to the polls."

Netanyahu told the gathered community leaders that he saw himself as the Prime Minister of every one of them, "without any difference in religion, race, or sex."

"I see in every Israeli citizen a partner in the building of a flourishing and safe state of Israel for all," he stressed.

Joint (Arab) List head Ayman Odeh rejected Netanyahu's statement as unacceptable asserting that a sincere apology should come in the form of passing laws intended to make state funding allocations in Israel more equal.

Odeh also noted that after the meeting with the Arab leaders, Netanyahu met with Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett and spoke to him about advancing nationalist legislation.

"This is just another zigzag by a man known for his zigzags," Odeh said adding, "He should turret the mandates he received for his incitement.

"We are waiting for a real apology, which means real equality."

Israel's close ally, the United States also continued questioning the leadership and judgement of the newly re-elected Israeli leader after President Barrack Obama said over the weekend that he planned a re-assessment of his country's policy towards Israel.

"When he says one thing one day and another thing another it's impossible to tell if he's sincere," State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters. 

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