JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quoted by Israeli media Thursday as saying he may have been wrong to call an Israeli Arab driver who struck and killed a policeman and was fatally shot last month a terrorist, as Israeli media reported that a preliminary investigation has determined that the car ramming was unintentional.
The incident exacerbated tensions between the government and Israel's Arab minority, and a leading Arab lawmaker is now calling on senior officials to resign.
"If there was a mistake, we have to say we erred, but I will wait for the official report," Netanyahu was quoted by Walla News as saying to reporters.
The Israeli daily Haaretz says the Justice Ministry will soon publish its conclusions about the incident. The Justice Ministry would not elaborate on its investigation.
Police said the Arab citizen, a teacher, rammed his vehicle into a group of policemen, killing one officer, and was fatally shot as protesters demonstrated last month against security forces carrying out a court-ordered demolition of unauthorized buildings in a Bedouin village in southern Israel.
The police said in a statement they were looking into any ties he may have had with the Islamic State group, and called on the Bedouin Arab community in Israel to "repudiate roots of extremist ideology that is concerned with terror!!" Locals and Arab advocates said the man lost control of his car after being shot, and accused police of excessive force.
This week, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who for weeks called the driver a terrorist, referred to the driver as a "citizen" and said the individual incident must not harm relations between the Bedouin community and the police. Erdan says he will apologize if officials determine the driver was not an attacker.