TEL AVIV (Israel) -- A Israeli legislator was criticized Tuesday for saying that if he could press a button to make all Palestinians vanish, he would.
Matan Kahana, Deputy Religious Services Minister, made the remarks to students from high schools in a West Bank settlement. His comments were captured on video and he explained that conflicting narratives between Israelis, Palestinians, were a major obstacle in the way of peace. He seemed to be arguing that Israelis and Palestinians must find a way together.
He said that if there was a button that could make all the Arabs disappear and send them on an express train from Switzerland, he would push it.
"But what can I do?" He said, "But what can you do?" In the video that Kan, Israeli public broadcaster, revealed, he stated: "There is no such button."
Kahana is part the Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's nationalist Yamina Party, which anchors a coalition consisting of eight ideologically diverse parties, including an Arab Islamist faction for the first time ever in Israeli history.
It has struggled during its first year of power and is now in trouble after a series defections. However, the coalition has claimed itself to be a symbol for Jewish-Arab cooperation in a society in which Israeli Jews and Palestinians live apart and rarely interact.
For Palestinians who fled their homes or were forced from their homes in the 1948 war that erupted around Israel's creation, the threat of forcible displacement is an important topic. A second uprooting took place during the 1967 Mideast War.
Some nationalist politicians in Israel have threatened to transfer Palestinian citizens of Israel. They are legal equals with Jewish Israelis, but are subject to discrimination. Many view them as a fifth column for their solidarity with the Palestinian cause.
Kahana's comments were condemned by both Palestinian Israeli lawmakers as well as his coalition members. Ahmad Tibi, an opposition lawmaker, tweeted that Kahana would "disappear" from the government and Knesset, Israel's parliament. Michal Rozin (a lawmaker from the coalition with Meretz's dovish Meretz) said that the comments were "more than tolerable."
Kahana, after the chaos, posted on Twitter that some remarks in his speech had been "worded poorly."
"I mentioned that both the Jewish and Arab population aren't going anywhere. We must therefore work together to coexist. This is the first courageous step in achieving this goal.