Matan Kahana’s remarks on ‘sending Arabs to Switzerland’ spark backlash

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Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana in i24NEWS studio in Tel Aviv, Israel, on February 17, 2020.
i24NEWSDeputy Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana in i24NEWS studio in Tel Aviv, Israel, on February 17, 2020.

'This was a terrible statement, it's a shame it was said'

Israel’s Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana received criticism for his comments on “sending Arabs to Switzerland” made in a speech to high school boys in Efrat.

Talking about the prospect of reaching peace with the Palestinians, Kahana said it was unrealistic for the time being, according to Kan public broadcaster.

“If there was a button I could press that would take all the Arabs and put them on a train to Switzerland, I would. A button like that does not exist,” the politician was quoted as saying. 

The video of Kahana’s speech circulated on social media. Several Israeli-Arab lawmakers expressed their frustration over the deputy minister’s words on Twitter. 

"Matan Kahana, we are here because this is our homeland. You, and others who think like you, can continue to wallow in your frustrations because we will not disappear!" Waleed Taha of the United Arab List tweeted. 

"This was a terrible statement, it's a shame it was said," Strategic Planning Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Eli Avidar tweeted. "Israeli-Arabs are here and they are here to stay. We need to be done with stances like these," he added.  

"No one is leaving, not to Switzerland and not to anywhere else, we are staying here together to build a democratic and equal society" Mossi Raz, member of the Meretz party, wrote.

Kahana on Tuesday commented on his controversial words in a Twitter post both in Hebrew and English saying Jews and Arabs must work “to live in coexistence.”  

https://twitter.com/i/web/status/1536600283517788161 ...

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“Conversing with students yesterday, I referenced that both Jewish and Arab populations aren’t going anywhere,” the post said. “Within this larger discussion, a few of my statements were worded poorly,” Kahana explained. 

Last week Kahana failed to be reappointed by the Knesset as Religious Affairs Minister due to a rebellious lawmaker, Idit Silman, opposing the vote. Earlier in May, he resigned from his ministerial position, planning to return as a member of Israel's parliament under the Norwegian law that allows ministers to resign temporarily from the legislative chamber in order for other candidates from the party list to fill their seat. 

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