Netanyahu pushes back against criticism of campaign comments
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE pushed back Thursday against allegations that he had sought to use anti-Arab sentiments to get votes in Tuesday’s parliamentary election.
 
“I’m very proud to be the prime minister of all of Israel’s citizens, Arabs and Jews alike,” he said on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports."
 
“I’m very proud of the fact that Israel is the one country in a very broad radius in which Arabs have free and fair elections — that’s sacrosanct, that will never change,” he said.
 
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Mitchell's interview with the prime minister will air Thursday on "NBC Nightly News" as well.
 
Netanyahu said things leading up to the election that were seen by many as attempts to rally conservative support by raising the specter of high Israeli Arab voter turnout.
 
“The right-wing government is in danger,” he said in a video posted to his Facebook page. “Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls. Left-wing organizations are busing them out.”
 
In Thursday’s interview, he said that his comments had been misconstrued — and that he was responding to turnout efforts by his opposition.
 
“I said, when that happens, make sure that we get out our vote. I wasn’t trying to suppress a vote, I was trying to get something to counter a foreign-funded effort to get votes that are intended to topple my party,” he said.
 
The comments were criticized by the White House on Wednesday.
 
“The United States and this administration is deeply concerned about rhetoric that seeks to marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens,” press secretary Josh Earnest said. “It undermines the values and democratic ideals that have been important to our democracy and an important part of what binds the United States and Israel together.”
 
“Rhetoric that seeks to marginalize one segment of their population is deeply concerning and it is divisive and I can tell you that these are views the administration intends to communicate directly to the Israelis.”