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No Arafat Street will be allowed in Israel, Netanyahu says

Israeli town of Jatt recently inaugurated Yasser Arafat Street in honour of late Palestinian president
Visitors stand outside tomb of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat during opening of Arafat Museum in West Bank city of Ramallah last year (AFP/file photo)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Sunday not to allow a street in a Palestinian Israeli town to be named after late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, promising new legislation if needed.

The town of Jatt recently inaugurated Yasser Arafat Street in honour of the former Palestinian president who is viewed as a hero among Palestinians and many Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Palestinian citizens of Israel account for almost 18 percent of the country's eight million population.

Netanyahu referred to the matter during a live Facebook feed. "On Friday, I spoke with Minister Deri, after hearing there was a street in Jatt named after Yasser Arafat. I thought this was unacceptable. It's inconceivable to have a street named after Israel's enemies inside Israel, and so I asked Minister Deri to take care of this during today's government meeting," Netanyahu said, according to Ynet.com. "He did it. I am being informed that the regional council will remove the sign.

"I want Israeli Arabs to be part of Israel's success story and loyal citizens of the State of Israel," Netanyahu was quoted by Ynet.com as saying. "All doors are open to them, but this door cannot include naming streets after the enemies of Israel or the murderers of Israelis."

Jatt mayor Mohammed Taher Wattab defended naming the street for Arafat in comments to Israeli army radio.

"Yasser Arafat signed a peace deal with Israel and it is a shame that the prime minister finds the need to waste his time on the name of a street in a small town like ours," he said.

Jatt, located in northern Israel, has a population of about 11,000.

"We will act according to the law, according to the legal advice that we receive."

Later on Sunday, the Jatt council decided to remove "all the controversial street signs," including the Arafat sign, and replace them with different names, according to a report on Channel 10 television. 

Speaking at the start of a cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said: “We cannot allow streets in the state of Israel to be named after Yasser Arafat and Haj Amin al-Husseini and others.”

Arafat rose to become the leader of the Palestinian movement after the creation of Israel, leading an armed struggle against it in which thousands died.

Decades later he disavowed violence and famously shook hands with then Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin on the White House lawn, though the peace the Oslo accords were supposed to bring has never materialised.

Husseini, a Palestinian nationalist, was grand mufti of Jerusalem in the 1920s and 1930s, held strong anti-Jewish views and met with Hitler.