Raja Zaatry, whose appointment as deputy mayor of Haifa sparked outrage over his comments in support of the Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist organizations, announced on Wednesday that he was giving up the position. The number two candidate in the Haifa Hadash party, Shahira Shalabi, will serve as deputy mayor in his stead.
"I do not apologize." Zaatry said. He stressed that despite his past remarks, he does not support terrorism.
"I am opposed to harming innocent people, Jews and Arabs, but I know that in this conflict, innocent people are injured on both sides, and we say that a people under occupation has the right to resist the occupation by all legitimate means," he said at a press conference in Haifa.
Zaatry criticized Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, calling him "the dangerous man from Balfour 10."
He claimed that the prime minister is afraid that in Haifa Jews and Arabs will live together. "What is this thing that he threatens that Haifa will not receive budgets, that the government's gates will be closed to a democratically elected mayor? The government speaks like a mafia and threatens like a mafia. Is this democracy?"
"I am proud of my party and my path. We did not reach Haifa through a Hezbollah tunnel or a Hamas rocket. We reached it through the 6715 votes of citizens who voted for me," he added, calling Hadash "a Jewish-Arab list that has led as a clear and courageous line of a true and just peace to 70 years in the city and in the state."
Yesterday, Haifa Mayor Einat Kalisch-Rotem spoke with Zaatry and asked him to retract his statements refusing to call Hezbollah a terrorist organization and comparing Zionism to the ideology of ISIS.
"I want to tell Einat that she is a courageous leader who can bring about change. I know what pressures which have been exerted and are still being exerted on her in order to get us out of the coalition and outside the realm of legitimacy. I appreciate her courage and believe that we will continue to be a true and courageous partner," Zaatry said.