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Netanyahu faces protests in Nazareth as he continues effort to court Arab voters

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the northern Arab Israeli city of Nazareth on Wednesday was met by hundreds of Arab and Jewish protesters demanding that he get out of the city.

The premier visited the city as part of a campaign to pursue support among Arab Israelis ahead of the March elections, in a stark about-face from his party’s previous unsubstantiated warnings of electoral fraud in Arab communities and repeated attacks on Arab lawmakers.

In Nazareth, the premier heralded what he called the opportunity for a “new era” for Jewish and Arab relations in Israel.

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“If Jews and Arabs can dance together in the streets of Dubai, they can dance together here in Israel. A new era begins today, of prosperity, integration and security,” Netanyahu said, referring to the recently signed normalization deals between Israel and four Arab states.

Most Arab Israelis have vigorously opposed Netanyahu, saying that he has incited racism against them. They point to laws such as the 2018 nation-state law, which enshrined Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people and demoted the status of Arabic, and the 2017 Kamenitz law, which deliberately targeted illegal Arab construction.

Netanyahu’s Likud party has also previously warned about what they have deemed to be Arab voter fraud, including seeking to install cameras in voting centers. Arab Israelis widely decried the attempt as an attempt at voter intimidation. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Nazareth on January 13, 2021 (courtesy: PMO)

Joint List politicians were quick to condemn the premier’s statements, including Ahmad Tibi who called it “an attempt to make [Arab Israelis] into useful idiots.”

“Arab voters will not be the rescue vehicle of Netanyahu. There’s nothing for him here in this election campaign,” said Joint List MK Sondos Saleh.

In his speech, Netanyahu claimed his now-famous warning in 2015 that Arabs were “voting in droves” was taken out of context. His remarks were widely seen as a........

© The Times of Israel

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