In a last-minute effort to appeal to Israeli conservatives as the country heads to the polls today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that high Arab voter turnout is endangering the right-wing party.
“The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls. Left-wing organizations are bussing them out,” Netanyahu said in a video uploaded to his Facebook page.
The warning is tied to a series of bad PR attempts made by Netanyahu in the campaign’s final days amid fears his six-year-reign is in trouble.
Wadea Awawdeh, a resident of the Arab town of Kfar Kana, said Netanyahu "cannot hide his racist feelings toward the Arabs" anymore. "Netanyahu is angry because he feels he is losing. It's another indication he is losing in the elections and losing his patience," said Awawdeh.
On Monday, Netanyahu vowed that if he is reelected a Palestinian state would not happen — completely backtracking on his former statements and policy initiatives.
Netanyahu’s comments to Israeli citizens quickly sparked outrage and accusations of racism.
“A prime minister who campaigns against voting by citizens belonging to an ethnic minority is crossing a red line of incitement and racism. This is especially severe on Election Day, when the message to Israeli citizens is to participate in the elections, vote, and take part in the democratic system,” said candidate Dov Khenin for the Joint Arab List party — a newly formed alliance of the Arab parties.
Palestinian citizens of Israel or Israeli Arabs make up 20 percent of the population and have long been discriminated against. Early morning polls indicated that 10 percent of the population casted their vote — a significant comparison to the 3 percent turnout during the last elections in 2013.
“We are sick of being seen as the enemy. We are not the enemy. We are citizens of this country, and I want to see my members sit in the Knesset [parliament] and legislate for all of us — Arabs and Jews — to have better lives,” said Nour Aslan, an Israeli Arab whose town of Ramle is preparing to vote for the Joint Arab List.