A senior member of Israel's fragile coalition government has been criticised for saying that he would deport all Arabs in the Holy Land to Switzerland if he could. The comments by Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana surfaced online.
The Knesset member for Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's right-wing Yamina party made the remarks on Monday in a speech at a boy's religious high school in the illegal settlement of Efrat in occupied Bethlehem.
The video clip aired by Israeli channel Kan shows Kahana saying: "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. Apparently we were destined to exist here [together] on this land in some form."
After facing a backlash, Kahana said on Twitter earlier today, "Conversing with students yesterday, I referenced that both Jewish and Arab populations aren't going anywhere. As such, we must work to live in coexistence. Our coalition is a courageous step towards this goal. Within this larger discussion, a few of my statements were worded poorly."
Kahana also voiced his opposition to the two-state solution, describing as "nonsense" the idea that it would bring peace.
"The Arabs will never give up Beit Gamliel and they will never give up on Sheikh Muwannis — Tel Aviv University," he said, referring to a Palestinian village that was mostly destroyed in 1948 and is in what is today's suburb of Ramat Aviv.
Lawmakers across Israel's political spectrum condemned Kahana's comments. "Matan Kahana, we are here because this is our homeland," said Walid Taha of the Arab party Ra'am. "You, and those who think like you, will continue to bear your frustration because we simply won't disappear."
Knesset member Ahmad Tibi, from the predominantly Arab Joint List opposition party, tweeted: "There is a button that will make you disappear from the government and from the Knesset. I will press it soon." His words have been interpreted to suggest that the teetering coalition will soon collapse amid plans to present a motion to dissolve the current Knesset and call a new General Election.
MK Eli Avidar, from the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party, also criticised Kahana, saying that it was, "A miserable remark. It is a shame it was said. The Arabs are Israeli citizens and they are here to stay. What we should do away with are bigoted remarks and opinions."