Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz of the ruling Likud party has called the country’s Arab politicians “terrorists in suits” and rejected opposition moves to use their support to form a minority government following the March 2 election.
Speaking to Kan Israel Radio on Sunday, Katz said that many members of the Joint List of Arab parties were either “supporters of terrorists or themselves terrorists in suits.”
Katz’s comments came in response to the news that former Israeli military chief Benny Gantz of the centrist Blue and White party had vowed to form a minority government with support from the Joint List, which represents Israel’s Arab minority.
The Arab alliance won an unprecedented 15 mandates in Israel’s parliamentary election on March 2.
Such a government would oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from power, spelling an end to his eleven years in office.
Israel’s latest election, held after two earlier rounds in April and September, failed to break the deadlock: Neither Netanyahu’s camp of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties, nor Gantz’ centre-left camp gained the upper hand.
The prime minister’s right-wing and religious bloc has 58 mandates, while Gantz’ centre left bloc has 55 – both short of the 61 seats needed for a majority in Israel’s 120-seat parliament.
Arabs form about 20 per cent of Israel’s 9-million-strong population and are regularly the subject of discrimination.
In the past some of their representatives have caused outrage by expressing support for militants.
In 2011, Arab lawmaker Ahmed Tibi praised Palestinian “martyrs” during a speech in Ramallah.
Another lawmaker, Hiba Yazbak, in 2015 shared a post praising a Lebanese Hezbollah commander.
Both politicians have denied supporting armed attacks.