President Reuven Rivlin issued an extraordinary rebuke of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday following a meeting between the two, denouncing recent comments by the premier about Arab politicians as “ugly” and saying they “undermine the legitimacy” of Israel’s Arab community.
Rivlin met Netanyahu and Likud party coalition negotiators ahead of a high-stakes meeting between the prime minister and his chief rival, Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz, on forming a potential unity government.
The President’s Residence said Netanyahu and his team updated him on the coalition talks, and that Rivlin “is of the opinion that the State of Israel needs as broad a unity government as possible.”
According to the statement, Rivlin “expressed his strong objection to recent statements against members of the Knesset and Arab population.”
Netanyahu has made increasingly dire warnings about a Blue and White minority government backed by the Joint List of majority Arab parties, whose lawmakers he accused earlier this week of wanting “to destroy” Israel.
Those remarks, Rivlin said, “undermine the legitimacy of these parts of Israeli society, deepening the already existing divisions. I ask everyone who cares about the State of Israel to stop these ugly statements once and for all.”