Facing growing criticism on a myriad of fronts after his actions during the lead-up to last week’s vote, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a public apology for saying things that may have hurt the feelings of Israeli Arab citizens.
During the statement at question, made during Tuesday’s election itself, Netanyahu complained about the high voter turnout among Israel’s Arab minority, claiming “Arab voters are going en masse to the polls. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them on buses.” He went on to blame funding from foreign governments.
Netanyahu’s comment provoked a backlash, not just from the Arabs themselves, but from President Reuven Rivlin, who lashed him for having “humiliated 20 percent of Israeli citizens for the sake of his campaign.”
That, it seems, will be the enduring impact of Netanyahu’s behavior in the week leading up to the Tuesday vote, as he went dramatically off the reservation from the usual, admittedly broad field of rhetoric from the Israeli right, from pretense toward moderacy and support for peace, toward overt racism and opposition to peace as a general proposition.
While having won the election, Netanyahu now seems to be trying to get back to the old pretense-heavy status quo, both apologizing to the Arabs for the busing comments and trying to convince the US that his public disavowal of the two-state solution no longer applies. His success at this will likely be a defining part of his latest administration, while his success at ginning up votes with bellicosity will no doubt inform the campaigns of Israel’s right for decades to come.