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'Wonder Woman' urges calm in Israel civil rights fight

Gal Gadot. Photograph:( AFP )

AFP Jerusalem, Israel Mar 11, 2019, 04.52 PM (IST)

Hollywood star Gal Gadot has leapt to defend a fellow actress who was chided by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for challenging his party's treatment of Arab citizens.

Netanyahu and his Likud party have been accused of using scare tactics and demonising Israel's Arab population ahead of April 9 elections in a bid to motivate their right-wing base.

"Love your neighbour as yourself," Israeli-born Gadot wrote on Instagram late Sunday after popular Israeli model and television actress Rotem Sela received online abuse from the public and a personal reprimand from Netanyahu.

"This isn't a matter of right or left. Jew or Arab. Secular or religious," the "Wonder Woman" star posted. 

"It's a matter of dialogue, of dialogue for peace and security and of our tolerance of one towards the other."

Sela fired off an angry Instagram post late Saturday after watching right-wing firebrand culture minister Miri Regev on TV.

Regev stated the Likud's line, warning voters in the April election not to choose its main opponents because if elected it would form an alliance with Israeli Arab parties in parliament -- a highly unlikely scenario.

"When the hell will someone in this government convey to the public that Israel is a state of all its citizens and that all people were created equal?" Sela wrote.

"Even the Arabs -- believe it or not -- are human beings, and the Druze and the gays, by the way, and the lesbians and -- shock -- leftists."

Netanyahu answered with an Instagram message of his own, addressed to "Dear Rotem".

"Israel is not a state of all its citizens," he wrote.

"According to the basic nationality law we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people -- and only it."

He was referring to a deeply controversial law passed last year declaring Israel the nation-state of the Jewish people and downgrading Arabic's status as an official language.

He returned to the theme at the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, where he called Israel a "Jewish, democratic state" with equal rights, but "the nation-state not of all its citizens, but only of the Jewish people".

Israeli Arabs make up around 17.5 per cent of the population.

Netanyahu has continually warned that his opponents will receive the support of Arab parties and that they will make significant concessions to the Palestinians.

Arab parties would be extremely unlikely to be part of any coalition government after elections.

Arab Israelis are Palestinians who remained on their land after the 1948 creation of Israel and are largely supportive of the Palestinian cause.

Gadot's message showed a re-post of Sela's comment in the background.

"Rotem, sister, you're an inspiration to us all," she wrote.

Story highlights

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party have been accused of using scare tactics and demonising Israel's Arab population ahead of April 9 elections in a bid to motivate their right-wing base.