In what was intended as a message to Palestinian citizens of Israel on “equality and dignity for all,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Arabs “goats,” resulting in a backlash from Palestinian political parties for staging a “hypocritical charade”.
The clip, recorded in separate Hebrew and English versions, started with an Arabic greeting: “Muwatinuna al arab al aezaa.” While the prime minister should have said, “My good friends Arab citizens,” with a slight mispronunciation his words were understood as, “my Arab goats.”
The gaffe was pointed out by Knesset member, Ahmad Tibi from the Joint List who said: “He [Netanyahu] meant to say the word ‘al-aziziye’ which means ‘my good friends.’ However, the word he said was ‘al aezaa,’ which means ‘my goats.’”
In a statement, party leader, Ayman Odeh said he rejects the idea that the video was an olive branch on social inclusion, saying the video made him ask: “Could this be the same prime minister who tried with all his might to block the economic development plan for Arab municipalities, who attempted to add more and more conditions so that the plan would be completely impractical?”
He continued: “Is this the same prime minister who incited against Arab citizens during the elections, and who since then has only intensified his incitement against us?”
The video focused on Netanyahu’s “resolution to invest massive resources in Arab communities,” but the surprise nature of the message, and the fact that a second version was published in English and not in Arabic, has many questioning underlining motivations.
Odeh’s reaction to the video was clear: “We don’t buy this hypocritical charade.”
Tibi posted a lengthy response on Facebook saying he did “not know what was the cause of this video and its timing, but I can confirm it is not directed at us, so much as it is to foreign and international groups for other reasons that will unfold later.”
He added that Netanyahu sounded uncharacteristically “like an observer of the United Nations”.
Netanyahu began the video by apologizing for previous statements he said about Palestinian citizens of Israel in 2015:“Before my election, I said Arabs voters were going to the polls in droves,” began Netanyahu, “I was referring to a specific political party but many people were understandably offended. I apologized for how my comment was misunderstood.”
— Joe Catron (@jncatron) March 17, 2015
It continued: “But today I want to go further. Today I am asking Arab citizens in Israel to take part in our society—in droves. Work in droves, study in droves, thrive in droves,” he added.
The “droves” comment caused the U.S. State Department to say it was “deeply concerned” about the rhetoric and that the prime minister “undermines the values and democratic ideals that have been important to our democracy and an important part of what binds the United States and Israel together.”
Palestinians represent 20 percent of Israel’s population.