On the morning of last year’s elections, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called on his supporters to make sure they voted – because Israeli Arabs “were streaming to the polls,” and were likely to unfairly skew the election. For this, he was condemned, and he apologized several times for this, most recently last week.
But in an interview on Israel Radio’s Arabic Service that was rebroadcast on Channel One, it was revealed that that was exactly what happened – and that it was Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas who orchestrated the “streaming.” In the interview, Nazareth Mayor Ali Salam revealed that he received a phone call from Abbas urging him to do something about the low turnout of Israeli Arab voters in his town on election day.
According to Salam, Abbas called him at about 3 p.m. on Election Day, when the turnout in Nazareth was barely 20 percent. Abbas asked Salim to urge residents to vote, and by 7 p.m., turnout was 90 percent, with the vast majority voting for the United Arab List. When the interviewer, surprised by the comment, asked Salam to elaborate, he said “don’t ask for details, Abbas’s people made me promises (apparently in return for the “favor”) but he broke them.”
Salam was a member of the Hadash party (now a part of the United Arab List) but resigned. The party has said that Salam “is not a reliable individual.” Salam is known to be at odds with the United Arab List, and its chairman Ayman Oudeh. Last October, Salam drove by an event that Arab MKs were holding in the city, and began shouting at Oudeh, who was being interviewed by Channel Two, to “get out of town, enough of your interviews. Go find something to do somewhere else, you have ruined everything here. Go to Haifa, get out of here!”
In a statement, the Likud said that “those who heard about this report and expect the media and the left to respond to this gross interference in Israeli elections should not hold their breath.”
Last week, Netanyahu apologized for the comments “I was talking specifically about a political party,” the United Arab List, and not Israeli Arabs in general, he said. “I know many people were hurt by this, and that is understandable.” Still, he said, the time had come to move forward.
In his own comments, Salam said that Israeli Arabs should “give the Prime Minister a chance,” and members of the United Arab List should accept his apology. “I have been seeing a change [in Netanyahu]. Let him continue supplying us with funds like he does the Jews, let him talk about true peace, let him sit with [Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud] Abbas and talk peace. I believe in strong people, they are the ones who can bring peace.”