Following the incident, the minister's office said he did not intend to insult anyone by using the derogatory term. Aharonovitch later issued a more strongly worded apology over his remark.
The embarrassing incident took place while Aharonovitch was touring the vicinity of Tel Aviv's old central bus station, a notoriously crime-ridden neighborhood. The minister met with undercover police agents in the area, and when one of the, apologized for being "a little dirty," Aharonovitch responded: "Why dirty? You look like a real Arabush."
During the tour, the minister was briefed on crime trends in the area, problems faced by police, and the efforts undertaken by officials to address local crime.
Later Tuesday, Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi slammed Aharonovitch's remark, saying "it would have sounded more authentic in German...Israel is turning into a Jewish, Lieberman-style racist state.""
"Yisrael Beiteinu, the Jewish fascist party, has become the world's most racist government faction," Tibi said.
Following criticism of the minister's remark, Aharonovitch's office issued the following statement: "During a tour the minister met with a police officer wearing dirty clothes, and in a moment of humor, while resorting to slang, he uttered a specific word with no intention to hurt anyone. If anyone was insulted, this certainly was not the intention."
Later, the minister said he wished to express his heartfelt apology over the remark he made.
"This expression does not express my worldview, and I wish to apologize to anyone who was hurt," he said.
Efrat Weiss contributed to report