JERUSALEM (JTA) — Haifa’s new mayor has refused a request from Israel’s prime minister to rescind the appointment of an Arab deputy mayor who has expressed support for Hamas and Hezbollah.
Raja Za’atra, an activist from the left-wing, Arab-Jewish Hadash Party, compared Zionism to ISIS at a political debate during the 2015 election campaign, and has compared Zionism to Nazism on social media.
Netanyahu phoned Anat Kalisch Rotem on Sunday morning and asked her to cancel Za’atra’s appointment. “This is unacceptable; therefore, I am convinced that it will not happen,” he told his Cabinet shortly after the phone call.
Kalisch Rotem, the first female mayor of Haifa, said she would not break her coalition agreement with the Hadash Party, Haaretz reported.
“I am a member neither of Hamas nor of Hezbollah, but rather of the Israeli Communist Party and the Hadash movement, which holds high the banner of peace, equality and fraternity among nations,” Za’atra told Haaretz. He said he would be a hard-working representative of the residents of Haifa, a mixed Jewish and Arab city.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said he is already working to find out if he can legally block Za’atra’s appointment.