PM has been accused of demonising Israeli Arabs in lead-up to April election
Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel is not a state of all its citizens, in a reference to the countrys Arab population.
In comments on Instagram, the prime minister went on to say all citizens, including Arabs, had equal rights, but he referred to a deeply controversial law passed last year declaring Israel the nation state of the Jewish people.
Israel is not a state of all its citizens, he wrote in response to criticism from an Israeli actor, Rotem Sela. According to the basic nationality law we passed, Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people and only it.
As you wrote, there is no problem with the Arab citizens of Israel. They have equal rights like all of us and the Likud government has invested more in the Arab sector than any other government, he said of his rightwing party.
As the comments caused waves in Israel, Netanyahu again spoke of the issue at the start of a cabinet meeting. He called Israel a Jewish, democratic state with equal rights, but the nation state not of all its citizens but only of the Jewish people.
Netanyahu has been accused of demonising Israeli Arabs, who make up about 17% of the population, in an attempt to boost rightwing turnout in elections due on 9 April.
He has continually warned that his opponents will receive the support of Arab parties and that they will make significant concessions to the Palestinians.
Netanyahu, under threat of indictment for corruption, is facing a tough challenge from a centrist political alliance led by Benny Gantz, a former military chief of staff, and Yair Lapid, an ex-finance minister.
The alliances centrist positions and its security credentials it includes three former military chiefs of staff have helped it beat back Netanyahus claims that its leaders are weak leftists.
Arab parties would be extremely unlikely to be part of any coalition government after elections.
Arab Israelis are Palestinians who remained on their land after the 1948 creation of Israel and are largely supportive of the Palestinian cause.
Netanyahu leads what is seen as the most rightwing government in Israels history and says he wants a similar coalition after the upcoming polls.
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