In what was intended as a message to Palestinians citizens of Israel on “equality and dignity for all,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s accidentally called Arabs “goats,” and received backlash from Palestinian political parties for staging a “hypocritical charade.”
The clip, recorded in Hebrew and English versions, started with an Arabic greeting, the phrase, “Muwatinuna al arab al aezaa.” While the prime minister had meant to say, “My good friends Arab citizens,” with a slight mispronunciation his words were understood as, “my Arab goats.”
The gaffe was pointed out by Knesset member Ahmad Tibi from the Joint List who released the following statement, “He [Netanyahu] meant to say the word ‘al-aziziye’ which means ‘my good friends.’ However, the word he said was ‘ al aezaa,’ which means ‘my goats,’” explained Tibi.
The error was not the only item to draw umbrage from the Joint List and Arab members of Knesset. They published their own video response today and said “no thanks!”
In an adjoining statement, party leader Ayman Odeh added he rejects the idea the video was an olive branch on social inclusion.
“I watched the video released by the Prime Minister and I asked myself: could this be the same prime minister who tried with all his might to block the economic development plan for Arab municipalities, who attempted to add more and more conditions so that the plan would be completely impractical?” said Odeh.
“Is this the same prime minister who incited against Arab citizens during the elections, and who since then has only intensified his incitement against us? When I saw that he chose to appeal to us in English, I understood the true purpose of his message and to whom it was really directed. So I say to the Prime Minister, in the name of the Arab public: We don’t buy this hypocritical charade,” he continued.
The video focused on Netanyahu’s “resolution to invest massive resources in Arab communities,” but the surprise nature of the message, and the fact that a second version was published in English and not in Arabic, has many questioning underlining motivations.
Typically these types of recordings posted to YouTube are reserved for holiday well wishes, or to condemn terrorist attacks such as a recent video of the prime minister on the shootings in Orlando. Netanyahu does not have a history of publishing other speeches on social media.
Tibi posted a lengthy response on Facebook that he did “not know what was the cause of this video and its timing, but I can confirm,” said Tibi, “that this ‘love’ surprise is false spin, and it is not directed at us, so much as it is to foreign and international groups for other reasons that will unfold later.”
Tibi went on to say Netanyahu sounded uncharacteristically “like an observer of the United Nations” and “I think the cameraman who filmed the video burst out laughing when he heard Netanyahu..Words of fraud worth debunking..Netanyahu: cut the bullshit ..![sic].”
Netanyahu began the video by apologizing for previous statements he said about Palestinian citizens of Israel in 2015.
“Before my election, I said Arabs voters were going to the polls in droves,” began Netanyahu, “I was referring to a specific political party but many people were understandably offended. I apologized for how my comment was misunderstood.”
“But today I want to go further. Today I am asking Arab citizens in Israel to take part in our society—in droves. Work in droves, study in droves, thrive in droves,” he added.
The “droves” comment caused the U.S. State Department to say it was “deeply concerned” about the rhetoric and that the prime minister “undermines the values and democratic ideals that have been important to our democracy and an important part of what binds the United States and Israel together.”
Palestinians represent 20 percent of Israel’s population. In the election where Netanyahu made the offending comments, the the Joint List, a coalition of primarily Palestinian political parties, became Israel’s third largest political party.