Opinion: The real reason for Netanyahu’s ferocious attacks on Israel’s Arab citizens

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a meeting of the Likud party in Ramat Gan. February 21, 2019
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a meeting of the Likud party in Ramat Gan. Feb 21, 2019. (photo:  AFP)
Netanyahu escalating anti–Arab incitement for political dividends.

By Ron Gerlitz | Haaretz | Feb 25, 2019

What motivates political attacks against Arab citizens is the conviction among right–wing politicians, including the prime minster himself, that incitement and threats buy them more political power with voters and within their own parties.

As Israel prepares for elections on April 9, an ongoing campaign of incitement by the government against the country’s Arabs citizens and their political leaders moves into high gear.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has worked mightily to get extreme–right Otzma Yehudit into the next Knesset and boost post–election support for his heading the new government. Wooing an ultra-racist party that channels Meir Kahane in its violent, vitriolic platform targeting Arab citizens and threatening their basic rights – this, Netanyahu views as reasonable political horsetrading, while simultaneously leading the vigorous delegitimization of a blocking majority to his continued rule that would include Arab parties.

Recent dire warnings from Netanyahu accused Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid of harboring dangerous plans: perhaps forming a government reliant on the support of Arab citizens, or even including their representatives in the governing coalition.

Following improved polling for Blue and White (the combined Gantz–Lapid party), a potent threat, the prime minister ratcheted up his rhetoric into the danger zone with incitement against the political representatives of Arab citizens, claiming that the Arab parties are intent on destroying Israel.

This outrageous lie and its dangerous message poses a real physical danger to leaders of the Arab parties. Some passionate partisan from the ultra-right could decide to take action to prevent those Knesset members from “destroying Israel.”

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