Politicians across Israel’s political spectrum condemned anti-Arab racism following the decision of Ashkelon mayor Itamar Shimoni to dismiss Arab workers from construction projects in schools and kindergartens.
“We should not discriminate against an entire public because of a small minority that is violent and militant,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “The vast majority of Israeli-Arab citizens are law-abiding, and we are acting resolutely against those who break the law”.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party, said “Ninety-nine percent of Israeli Arabs are loyal and want to integrate. There is a tiny minority that uses violence and causes terrorism, and we must crack down on that, but [we must] also integrate and bring closer the vast majority of Israeli Arabs. This is a key to our future here.”
The decision was also condemned by Finance Minister Yair Lapid, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon, and many other politicians from all sides.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni ordered the Attorney-General to investigate Mr Shimoni, while the Interior Ministry wrote to him to declare that his actions were illegal and that the workers must be reinstated. The Economy Ministry stressed that firing workers based on their race or ethnicity is a breach of Israel’s Equal Opportunities Act.
Many Israeli parents are nervous about school safety. Following Tuesday’s fatal synagogue attack, there is increased demand for guards at every school and kindergarten. Some parents have arranged rotas and others have kept their children home from school since the attack.