JERUSALEM, March 24 (UPI) -- An apology from newly re-elected Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to Israeli Arab voters was rejected by Arab leaders.
Prior to the Mar. 17 election, which Netanyahu's Likud party won easily, he warned supporters his right-wing party could lose the race, in part because Arab voters would arrive at polling stations in large numbers to vote for opposition parties. "The right-wing government is in danger," he said Mar. 16 in a video posted on social media. "Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls. Left-wing organizations are busing them out."
Monday he apologized to a group of local mayors and Arab political and religious leaders, saying, "I know that my comments last week offended some Israeli citizens and offended members of the Israeli-Arab community. This was never my intent. I apologize for this. I am sorry for this. I view myself as prime minister of each and every one of you, of all Israeli citizens, regardless of religion, race and gender. I view all Israeli citizens as partners in the building of a prosperous and safe state of Israel, for all Israelis."
The apology was condemned by an alliance of Arab group within Israel known as the Joint List, which said in a statement, "Racist, marginalizing legislation and discriminatory policy are a work plan for Netanyahu in the next Knesset (parliamentary assembly) as well, therefore we reject his apology and continue our fight for equality for the Arab population. Netanyahu's regret is no more than an empty gesture intended to legitimize the continued racist rule of Netanyahu and his people. Netanyahu's racism did not begin with this inciting statement, and surely will not end there. Inciting and marginalizing legislation is Netanyahu's political platform for the near future."
Netanyahu's pre-election remarks, accompanying his claim a two-state solution providing nation status to Palestine would not occur during his tenure as Prime Minister, angered many of Israel's 1.7 million Arab citizens, who comprise about 20 percent of Israel's population and protest regularly of discrimination against them.
The White House, which was angered more by Netanyahu's comments regarding a two-state solution, the global preference for settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, called the apology "appropriate," and Abraham Foxman, of the New York-based Anti-Defamation League, greeted the apology favorably, saying, "While I do not believe the prime minister's election day remarks were intended to be anti-Arab or racist, his words left questions in people's minds about how the Arab community is viewed by Israel's leadership and their place in Israeli society."