Israeli President Reuven Rivlin countered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent remarks on Monday, arguing that Israeli Arabs were not “second-class voters” and there are “no first-class citizens” in the country.
"We are all equal in the voting booth. Jews and Arabs, citizens of the State of Israel. One hundred and twenty Knesset members cannot change its character as a Jewish state he said in a statement as cited by The Times of Israel, taking the floor at a ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Israel-Egypt peace accord, and later making a respective tweet in Arabic.
He went on to say that "those who believe that the State of Israel must be Jewish and democratic in the full sense of the word must remember that the State of Israel has complete equality of rights for all its citizens."
The current election campaign has political thinking turned “on its head,” the president argued, going on to denounce the “entirely unacceptable remarks about the Arab citizens of Israel” made by some politicians, in an apparent rebuke of Natanyahu’s stance.
Twitter reactions on the subject varied a lot, with many picking up on the president's words on "B-grade citizens:"
A direct rebuke to Netanyahu. Spoken on the day his wife (Nechama Rivlin) underwent major surgery & Ruvi could have been forgiven for not having time for any of us. https://t.co/oNjLLH0qdr— yaacov lozowick (@yaacovlozowick) 11 марта 2019 г.
Rivlin is right. Arabs aren’t B-grade citizens. They are F-grade or lower. https://t.co/JaumMmKOAS— asad abukhalil أسعد أبو خليل (@asadabukhalil) 11 марта 2019 г.
#Breaking: Just revealed that Pres Rivlin gave this speech while his beloved wife Nechama, to whom he is famously devoted, was undergoing lung transplant surgery.— Noga Tarnopolsky (@NTarnopolsky) 11 марта 2019 г.
•Nerves of steel • https://t.co/IJvgtU0Q8b
In a parallel move, Hollywood star and Wonder Woman lead actress Gal Gadot has weighed in on a social media row with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with regard to his claim of Israel being “no state of all its citizens”, thereby backing the pro-Arabic stance of anchor Rotem Sela.
Gadot wrote in comments on Instagram:
“Love your neighbour as yourself”.
“This isn’t a matter of right or left, Jew or Arab, secular or religious. It’s a matter of dialog, of discussing peace and equality and our tolerance toward one another. The responsibility for sowing hope and light for a better future for our children is ours. Rotem, sister, you are an inspiration to us all”, the actress concluded, with feeling in what appeared to be a rare comment by the “Wonder Woman” star.
Gadot’s rhetoric was also echoed by no less supportive actress Maya Dagan, who wrote in the comment section:
“She’s not brave. She’s normal. She’s sane. She’s a citizen of the state who cares. Who loves our country. Just like me. Just like every person who lives here. This fear of not being able to express your opinion is illogical. I join you. I affirm what you said. Good for you, Rotem. I’m proud of you”.
Over the past weekend, Netanyahu took to Instagram to respond to a recent post by Israeli TV host and model Rotem Sela, stating unambiguously in response to her hailing Arabs as being integral to the country:
"Dear Rotem, an important correction: Israel is not a state of all its citizens", he wrote in caption to a snapshot sporting himself against the backdrop of an Israeli flag.
Rotem Sela earlier slammed Culture Minister Miri Regev on Instagram for saying in a televised interview that an Arab presence in a governing coalition would be dangerous, and calling out the interviewing journalist for staying silent on the issue.
"Rina Matzliach [the journalist who interviewed Regev] stayed silent. And I ask myself why Rina doesn't ask her in shock – 'and what's the problem with Arabs???' Oh my god, there are also Arab citizens in this country", Sela posted on the social network.