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In meeting with Israeli Arab leaders, Netanyahu apologizes for comments that “hurt the Arab citizens.” Good. That was the right thing to do.

In Uncategorized on March 23, 2015 at 5:24 pm
Netanyahu meeting with Arab leaders on March 23, 2015.

Netanyahu meeting with Arab leaders on March 23, 2015.

Netanyahu-Arabs2(Central Israel) — During a meeting today with leaders from various Arab communities in Israel, newly-reelected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Israeli Arab citizens for comments he made on Election Day.

“I know the things I said several days ago offended some of Israel’s citizens, hurt the Arab citizens. I had no intention to hurt anyone and I am sorry if I did,” Netanyahu told the leaders. “My actions as prime minister, including the tremendous investment in minority sectors prove the opposite. I think, too, that we must never let anyone outside the state of Israel interfere with our democratic process….I see myself as the prime minister of each and every one of you, all the citizens of Israel, regardless of faith, ethnicity or gender. I see all citizens of Israel as partners in building a prosperous and secure state, a state for all its citizens.”

Good. That was the right thing to do. The PM was right to apologize. His remarks were insensitive and unhelpful. I would encourage him to be pro-active in the weeks and months to come in reaching out to Israeli Arab leaders, including them in his plans for the country, and continuing to invest in the economic growth, development and progress of Israeli Arab communities. As I noted yesterday on this blog, “Israeli Arabs are a vital part of our national culture and society. They are full-fledged citizens of the State of Israel and they should be honored and protected by our leaders, whatever their religious or political views.”

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In Uncategorized on March 23, 2015 at 1:07 pm

TheThirdTargetThe Third Target — a new international political thriller about the threat ISIS poses to the U.S., Israel and Jordan — is the #1 best-selling novel in the Christian market in North America for the second month in a row.

The novel, which was released on January 6th, recently spent 7 weeks on the Publishers Weekly hardcover fiction best-seller list. It hit the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post best-seller lists, as well.

Amidst the barbaric attacks by ISIS jihadists across Iraq, Syria and North Africa, Christians throughout North America and around the world are asking many questions. Who is ISIS? What do they believe? What do they want? How serious is the threat to us? Is it true that genocidal conditions are emerging for Christians in the Middle East? And is there any good news? How can the Church advance the Gospel amongst Muslims?

In this context, I am pleased to announce that Tyndale House Publishers and I are partnering to present a special simulcast event on Sunday evening, April 19th, to answer these questions.

You, your small group, and/or your church — small, medium, or large — can register now to view the simulcast and to share the message with family, friends and neighbors.

Please go to the website to learn more, share this information with your pastor and with others, and then register today so you can be part of this timely event.

Thanks so much to everyone who is reading the book and telling their friends about it. Please continue to post your reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Good Reads, other online book sites and other social media sites, including at the “Epicenter Team” page on Facebook. Please also keep praying for the U.S. and our allies to develop a bold and decisive strategy to contain and then defeat ISIS, before these apocalyptic jihadists launch new and potentially catastrophic terror attacks.

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Israeli Arabs are a vital part of our society & must be valued as such. Netanyahu is not a racist, but he should have been more careful how he communicated during the campaign. Now he should bring all Israelis together against common threats.

In Uncategorized on March 22, 2015 at 4:10 pm

netanyahu-PMoffice>> MONDAY UPDATE (4pm Israel time): With 67 Members of Knesset recommending him to be Prime Minister, Netanyahu to be formally tasked with assembling new government.

UPDATED: (Central Israel) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under blistering criticism for comments he made on Election Day when he urged his supporters to turn out to the polls and vote for him because foreign organizations were mobilizing a larger number of Arab voters than usual to vote for his Left-wing opponents.

Here is specifically what the PM said in an Election Day You Tube video: “The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are going en masse to the polls. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them on buses….We only have you. Go to the polls, bring your friends and family, vote Mahal [Likud] to close the gap between us and Labor [Zionist Union]….With your help and God’s help, we will form a nationalist government that will protect the State of Israel.”

Netanyahu has been excoriated by those on the Israeli Left and in the international media. Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, whose party experienced a crushing an unexpected defeat on Tuesday, bitterly sniped that the PM “resorted to lies, incitement and racism” to win the election. HBO’s Bill Maher called Netanyahu a “racist.”  Other left-wing commentators in the U.S. also accused him of “racism.”

The Prime Minister, however, explained that “what’s wrong is not that Arab citizens are voting, but that massive funds from abroad from left-wing NGOs and foreign governments are bringing them en masse to the polls in an organized way, thus twisting the true will of all Israeli citizens who are voting, for the good of the Left.”

Amidst all the hyperbolic rhetoric, let’s be clear on these facts:

  • Netanyahu is not a racist, he doesn’t hate Arabs, and his record shows his respect for Israel’s Arab community, which makes up about 20% of Israel’s 8.2 million citizens.
  • Netanyahu has invested billions in the economic development of the Israeli Arab community over the years. (See here, here, here, here and here)
  • Netanyahu has carefully and properly protected the rights of Israeli Arab citizens to register to vote, to vote, to have their own political parties, and to serve in government positions, including as justices in the Israeli Supreme Court.
  • The PM did nothing to prevent Israeli Arabs from voting, nor has he ever.
  • Indeed, this election had the highest percentage of Israelis voting — both Jews and Arabs — of any election since 1999.
  • What’s more, there will be a record 15 Arab Members of Knesset in the next parliament, “the highest number to date” — 13 will be members of Joint Arab List, one will be from the Zionist Union, and one from a member of the Meretz party.
  • Israel has proven to be the safest, freest, most robust democracy for Arabs and Jews in the entire Middle East under all prime ministers of Israel, including Netanyahu.
  • According to a recent poll, during the Netanyahu years as Prime Minister, “65% of Israeli Arabs described themselves as either very or quite proud to be Israeli.”
  • UPDATE: Read about the Arab town in Israel that voted 76% for Netanyahu and the Likud.

That said, it also must be noted that:

In this context, Netanyahu had every right — indeed a responsibility even — to warn his supporters that Communist, Islamist and anti-Zionist voters were mobilizing to defeat him, and that foreign NGOs were helping get these voters to the polls in large numbers. He had every right — and again, the responsibility — to educate and mobilize voters who want Jerusalem to remain unified and don’t believe in rolling Israel back to indefensible borders to get to the polls to defend their values.

This wasn’t racist, and Netanyahu’s critics know it.

All that said, Netanyahu should have been more careful in how he communicated. He should have taken extra care to be precise about his concerns, knowing how his enemies constantly try to use his words against him. He was not the only candidate to use passionate rhetoric in the heat of a campaign, but he should hold himself to a higher standard.

Israeli Arabs are a vital part of our national culture and society. They are full-fledged citizens of the State of Israel and they should be honored and protected by our leaders, whatever their religious or political views.

So now, the Prime Minister should pro-actively reach out to all Israelis — Arabs and Jews, those who voted for him and those who did not — and bring the nation together. We face grave and common threats and we need each other. What’s more, the world is watching how we treat one another.

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