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Ahead of March elections, Netanyahu (surprisingly) courts Arab voters

Experts offer several explanations for the surprising shift of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the Arab public and Arab voters, three months before the upcoming elections.

“I was glad to visit Umm al-Fahm to mark Israel’s millionth vaccination. Arab society is participating in the Israeli success story.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to release this statement following his visit to the vaccination center in the town of Umm al-Fahm on Jan. 2. Just one day earlier, he had visited a similar vaccination center in another Arab town, Tira. What makes this remarkable is that just one year ago, on the eve of the last election, these two towns figured prominently in President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century.” They were named in a clause in that agreement, which would have allowed Israel to exchange populated territories in the heavily Arab “Triangle” region [in the north of Israel] for West Bank territories containing Jewish settlements.

Local residents were stunned by this 180-degree shift in the prime minister’s attitude toward the residents of Umm al-Fahm and Tira, but there was more to come. In an interview with Israel’s Channel 13, Netanyahu said that he will not rule out the inclusion of an Arab candidate on the Likud’s list of candidates for the next Knesset. They were shocked to hear him heap praise on the Arab sector, and yet Netanyahu even wondered out loud about how previous governments could have possibly ignored them. “For years,” he said, “the mainstream excluded the Arab sector from government. Why? There was no reason for that.”

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