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    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he delivers a statement in Ramat Gan, Israel, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019.

    ‘Israel’s Jewish & Democratic, but Individually Everyone is Equal’ – Expert

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    The State of Israel belongs solely to the Jews. This is what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in response to a comment by Israeli actress Rotem Sela.

    Sputnik has discussed the statement with Eli Hazan, foreign affairs director at the Israeli party Likud.

    Sputnik: Why has the prime minister decided not to leave the actress's comment unnoticed and reply to her?

    Eli Hazan: You have to understand it in the Israeli context. It is very crucial for us. Let me say one thing, a fact that no one can deny, individually speaking, the Arabs in Israel have equal rights. I can give you a few examples, for instance, we have Arabs in the Israeli national football team. So, individually speaking, they have full rights. If you speak about nationality, there is a difference — Israel is a Jewish and democratic state, and by the way we are not the only ones to say so.

    If you remember, in 1947 the Partition Plan of the United Nations said a Jewish state alongside an Arab state; so, we cannot understand what the problem is with this. I read the article in The Guardian and I cannot understand it. Regarding Rotem Sela, the actress, for us it was something crucial, especially before the election.

    Sputnik: Prime Minister Netanyahu insists Israel is not a state of all its citizens. What exactly did Mr Netanyahu mean?

    Eli Hazan: That's what I have explained. Nationally, Israel is a Jewish and Democratic state, as much as Egypt is an Arab state; but individually, everyone in Israel, if you are a citizen, has equal rights. This is exactly how you must understand it. I know that in English the context sounds terrible, but in the Israeli context it's very reasonable, it's logical.

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    And in fact, this is the Jewish and democratic state since 1948; by the way, if someone wants to accuse Netanyahu of being a racist, they need to accuse Yitzhak Rabin as a racist because Rabin held or shared the same view.

    Sputnik: The comment has already sparked a wave of criticism in Israel towards Mr Netanyahu's comment with the prime minister being accused of segregationalism. What is your response to such accusations?

    Eli Hazan: It is not true. Let me give you an example why. First of all, there is an Arab integration in all spectrums of society; I've just mentioned a few things. Besides that, Netanyahu's government was the only government in the history of the State of Israel who invests approximately 50 billion shekels into the Arab community in order to integrate them into society — in health, education, infrastructure. Not any other government in the last 70 years did the same. That's a fact. By the way, please check everything I'm telling you.

    Sputnik: How much could Mr Netanyahu's statement bolster your party's chances ahead of the vote?

    Eli Hazan: No, in the end Israeli public don't vote because of this thing or that thing; I mean there are a lot of considerations when you go to vote. A lot of Israelis decide in the last minute, so I cannot tell you. I want to remind you one more thing — Netanyahu has been very popular; he's been reelected since 2009 because of the international and economic status of the State of Israel.

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    And I guess that will be in the line. And besides that, a lot of Israelis know that Netanyahu is politically persecuted by the left-wing and the media; again, it's going to be another consideration for the Israelis.

    Sputnik: Do you agree with Mr Netanyahu's statement that a left-wing government will undermine the security of the state and its citizens?

    Eli Hazan: Yes, no doubt about it. Let's go back to history, before the Oslo Agreement of 1993 Netanyahu's Likud Party said "don't sign this agreement; you are going to bring the terrorists in to the centre of the State of Israel". We all remember — and I grew up in Jerusalem in the 1990s — we all remember the terror actions of Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority; we all remember the Second Intifada. Besides that, left-wing in Israel led by Benny Gantz already admitted that they want to leave some of the territory in Judea and Samaria; for us it is very dangerous.

    Sputnik: How do you assess Mr Netanyahu's chances of being reelected?

    Eli Hazan: No one knows. The Israeli political system is very dynamic and a lot of things can change. I hope he will win because we have a sense or a feeling that if he loses it would be the end of a period for us, and we simply don't see anyone who can replace Netanyahu. You cannot compare any other political leader in Israel with Benjamin Netanyahu.

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    As Russians you may understand when I'm telling you that Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of tiny Israel, can meet with Putin whenever he wants for very crucial things; on the other hand, Netanyahu was able to convince Donald Trump, the American president, about the need to cancel the Iranian deal. Netanyahu is something different and I want to hope that the Israelis will vote for him again.

    The views expressed in this article are solely those of Eli Hazan and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

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