A senior doctor from one of Israel's top hospitals caused an uproar on Sunday after claiming "the Arab womb is overwhelming the Jewish public" in the country.
Prof. Gideon Saar, a cardiac surgeon at Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva, was recorded on video saying the remarks during an election conference of the Jewish Home Chairwoman and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked.
Saar was heard asking Shaked if child allowances could be decreased, or a fine could be imposed on those having five or more children. "This population increase issue, especially among more problematic populations, is a kind of paradox, an oxymoron," Prof. Saar said.
"On the one hand, we know the Arab birth rate overwhelms us, but on the other hand, we encourage it with the allowances. We have to think about a regressive child allowance. A second child will get it, a third maybe, a fourth will not, and a fifth should maybe result in a fine."
Shaked replied that she doesn't think a such solution could be implemented.
"It won't work, we fought polygamy so we cut income-promised allowances. So, their solution is to stage a fake divorce, and then the woman gets allowances as a single mother. The best solution is that they will simply go through westernization."
Saar's comments caused a fuss among the Bedouin and Arab population and resulted on Monday in a one-hour strike by the Arab medical staff at the Soroka hospital.
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said in response that "the remarks of the Soroka official are racist and I condemn them."
"His comments certainly don't represent the health care system. There is no stronger place in Israel where the common existence of Jews and Arabs is stronger. Anyone who comes to a hospital or a clinic can witness joint teamwork and equal treatment for every patient."
Chairman of the Arab Doctors Association in the Negev Dr. Naim Abu Freha sent a complaint to the director-general of Soroka Dr. Shlomi Kodesh, in which he wrote that they strongly condemn Prof. Saar's statement. "These are racist statements that deserve all the condemnation possible. He has clearly hurt the joint future of both nations," Abu Freha wrote.
Following Saar's remarks, Dr. Shlomi Kodesh sent a letter to the hospital employees on Monday, saying that "the expression of one of the hospital's department heads, which was said at a private event, does not represent the Soroka Medical Center or its employees. The board made it clear to the department director, who apologized for the statement."
Saar said in response: "For 17 years, I've been running the department of heart surgery and chest surgery in Soroka and treating all Negev residents with devotion, with no distinction in religion, race, and gender. Many of the Negev, Arabs, and Jews, are my personal friends, they work with me and I love and respect them. I am very sorry if my words have been misunderstood and I apologize if any of the citizens of the State of Israel have been harmed by them."