Netanyahu criticised by Rivlin for saying Israel ‘not a country of all citizens’
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Netanyahu criticised by Rivlin for saying Israel ‘not a country of all citizens’

Israeli prime minister in spat with TV personality Rotem Sela, where he says 'Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people — and not anyone else'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, December 4, 2018. Photo by: JINIPIX
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, December 4, 2018. Photo by: JINIPIX

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been criticised by the head of state, after saying that Israel is “not a country of all its citizens,” but rather “the nation-state of the Jewish people.”

The embattled leader made his remarks responding to an Instagram post on Saturday night by Israeli actress and television personality Rotem Sela, who had criticised Culture Minister Miri Regev.

Sela hit out at Regev for comments made in an interview on Channel 12 news in which she said that voting for the centre-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.

“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.”

After his comments, Israel’s president Reuven Rivlin rebuked the PM for his comments, taking to twitter in English and Arabic.

He said: “Recently, when political thinking is turning all reason on its head, we hear entirely unacceptable remarks about the Arab citizens of Israel. I refuse to believe that there are political parties that have surrendered the character of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”

The State of Israel has complete equality of rights for all its citizens.There are no first-class citizens, and there are no second-class voters. We are all equal in the voting booth. We are all represented at the Knesset.”

Board of Deputies Senior Vice President Sheila Gewolb responded to the remarks, saying it “is committed to supporting the ‘complete equality of social and political rights’ for all Israeli citizens, regardless of characteristics such as religion, race or sex, as envisioned in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.”

Yachad, the left-wing pro-Israel group condemned his remarks, saying his comment “runs counter to Israel’s Declaration of Independence which enshrines freedom and democracy for all Israelis irrespective of their faith, race or sex.

“As British Jews who enjoy the protection of our rights as a minority in the UK, we must speak up in opposition to the attempts of the current Israeli government to turn non-Jews in Israel into second class citizens. Were the same comment to be made about the UK – that the UK was not a state for all its citizens but only for Christians – it would rightly send alarm bells ringing in our community. We would both expect and demand solidarity as a minority in this country.”

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 characterised as “disgusting” and “revolting.”

But she found support from her good friend Gal Gadot, who posted a message which read, in part: “Love your neighbour 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

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