JERUSALEM (JTA) – “There can be no discrimination against Israeli Arabs,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said following the decision by the mayor of Ashkelon to lay off Arab workers in the city.
“We must not generalize about an entire public due to a small and violent minority. The vast majority of Israel’s Arab citizens are law-abiding and whoever breaks the law – we will take determined and vigorous action against him,” Netanyahu said in a statement issued from his office on Thursday.
Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni ordered a halt to construction work on bomb shelters in the city’s pre-schools to prevent Arab workers from coming in to the city. The decision was made in the wake of a deadly terror attack by two Palestinians from eastern Jerusalem Tuesday on a synagogue in Jerusalem.
The work was halted beginning Thursday, Shimoni announced in a Facebook post on Wednesday evening.
The decision caused a hailstorm of criticism from Israeli lawmakers of every political and religious stripe.
Interior Minister Gilad Erdan ordered an investigation into whether the order is legal. Arab-Israeli lawmaker Ahmed Tibi asked Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to investigate the firings. He called the decision to separate Arab-Israelis from Jewish-Israelis “apartheid.”
Shimoni told Army Radio Thursday that the decision is a temporary one. He said that parents were uncomfortable with the Arab workers around their children and had asked for additional armed security guards when the workers were present.
Arab-Israelis have been rioting in various cities in the Galilee since a resident of the northern Israel village of Kfar Kana was shot and killed after threatening police.