JERUSALEM (JTA) — The mayor of Ashkelon was criticized for laying off city Arab workers in the aftermath of the deadly synagogue attack in Jerusalem.
Itamar Shimoni ordered a halt to construction work on bomb shelters in the city’s preschools to prevent Arab workers from entering the city beginning Thursday, he announced in a Facebook post the previous evening.
The decision is a temporary one, Shimoni told Army Radio on Thursday. 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.
The move comes two days after two Palestinians from eastern Jerusalem killed five people in the synagogue attack in western Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was among many throughout the Israeli political and religious spectrum to slam the decision.
“There can be no discrimination against Israeli-Arabs,” Netanyahu said Thursday in a statement issued from his office. “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.”
Interior Minister Gilad Erdan ordered an investigation into whether the order was legal. Arab-Israeli lawmaker Ahmed Tibi asked Israel’s attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, to investigate the firings, and called the decision to separate Arab-Israelis from Jewish-Israelis “apartheid.”
Arab-Israelis have been rioting in cities in the Galilee since a resident of the northern Israeli village of Kfar Kana was shot and killed last week after threatening police.