Councilman Raja Za’atara, whose appointment as deputy mayor of Haifa sparked outrage over his comments in support of the Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist organizations, announced on Wednesday that he was giving up the position.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri were involved in the political storm following Za’atara’s appointment by newly-elected mayor, Einat Kalish-Rotem.
Za’atara has not hidden his loyalties, siding with the Hamas regime in Gaza during violent border clashes with IDF soldiers. He has at times made remarks comparing Zionism to Nazism. He has not apologized for his pro-Hamas/Hezbollah statements, nor does he intend to, preferring to lose the appointment rather than to betray his values.
“I do not apologize.” Za’atara said at a press conference. He calling it a “sad day for Israeli democracy, which is bankrupt”, and accused the system of pursuing him because of his political views
“I am opposed to harming innocent people, Jews and Arabs, but I know that in this conflict, innocent people are injured on both sides, and we say that a people under occupation has the right to resist the occupation by all legitimate means,” he said.
Za’atara criticized Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, calling him a “pyromaniac” and “the dangerous man from Balfour 10.”
He claimed that the prime minister is afraid that in Haifa, Jews and Arabs will live together. “What is this thing that he threatens that Haifa will not receive budgets, that the government’s gates will be closed to a democratically elected mayor? The government speaks like a mafia and threatens like a mafia. Is this democracy?”
“I am proud of my party and my path. We did not reach Haifa through a Hezbollah tunnel or a Hamas rocket. We reached it through the 6715 votes of citizens who voted for me,” he added, calling Hadash “a Jewish-Arab list that has led as a clear and courageous line of a true and just peace to 70 years in the city and in the state.”
He announced his party has decided the deputy mayoral slot would now go to Shahira Shalabi in his place, as she holds the next slot on the party list.
As such, Shalabi will become the first female Arab to serve as a Haifa deputy mayor.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)