Netanyahu, in war of words over Arab-Israelis, says Israel is ‘not a country of all its citizens’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the media in Ramat Gan, Israel, Feb. 21, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on social media that Israel is “not a country of all its citizens,” but rather “the nation-state of the Jewish people.”

He was responding to an Instagram post on Saturday night by Israeli actress and television personality Rotem Sela, who on Instagram had criticized Israel’s Culture Minister Miri Regev for an attempt at fear mongering during an interview on Channel 12 news in which she said that voting for the center-left Blue and White Party of Benny Gantz would lead to a government coalition with Arab parties.

“Dear God, there are also Arab citizens in this country,” Sela wrote. “When will anyone in this government tell the public that this is a country of all its citizens, and all people are born equal.”

Netanyahu responded on Sunday morning on Instagram and Facebook. “Dear Rotem, an important correction: Israel is not a state of all its citizens. According to the nation-state law we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people — and not anyone else.

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“As you wrote, there is no problem with Israel’s Arab citizens. They have equal rights and the Likud government has invested more than any other government in the Arab population,” he also wrote.  But he added that a government including Arab parties would “undercut the state’s security.”

Sela, who hosts several Israeli reality shows including Israel’s Next Star, received many responses to her post, both for and against, including some she characterized as “disgusting” and “revolting.”

But she found support from her good friend Gal Gadot, who posted a message which read, in part: “Love your neighbor as yourself …  The responsibility to sow hope and light for a better future for our children is on us. Rotem, sister, you are the inspiration for us all.”

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רותם היקרה, תיקון חשוב: ישראל היא לא מדינת כלל אזרחיה. לפי חוק יסוד הלאום שהעברנו, ישראל היא מדינת הלאום של העם היהודי – ושלו בלבד. כמו שכתבת, אין שום בעיה עם אזרחי ישראל הערבים – הם שווי זכויות ככולנו וממשלת הליכוד השקיעה במגזר הערבי יותר מכל ממשלה אחרת. הליכוד רק ביקש לחדד את השאלה המרכזית בבחירות האלה: זו ממשלת ימין חזקה בראשותי או ממשלת שמאל של יאיר לפיד וגנץ בתמיכת המפלגות הערביות. ללפיד וגנץ אין דרך אחרת להקים ממשלה וממשלה כזאת תערער את ביטחון המדינה והאזרחים. ההכרעה – עוד חודש בקלפי. יום טוב. @rotemsela1

A post shared by Benjamin Netanyahu נתניהו (@b.netanyahu) on Mar 9, 2019 at 10:23pm PST