Barak says 'sorry' for deaths of Palestinian protesters
JERUSALEM - Israeli election contender and ex-premier Ehud Barak apologised Tuesday for the killing of Palestinian citizens of Israel in bloody 2000 protests, after an Arab lawmaker slammed him in a newspaper editorial.
Barak, who hopes to topple incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, held the post himself in 2000 when security forces killed 13 people when protests marking the annual "Land Day" turned violent.
Land Day commemorates the killing of six "Israeli Arabs" (a term used to refer to Palestinians who are citizens of the Israeli state) in 1976 protests over government confiscation of their land.
Arab lawmaker Esawi Frej wrote in the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper Tuesday that Barak must apologise and take responsibility for the deaths.
Earlier this month Frej, of the opposition Meretz party, ruled out an alliance with Barak's Israel Democratic Party in the September general election because of the 2000 killings.
"Esawi Frej wrote important words that come from a place of pain," Barak told Israeli public radio on Tuesday.
"They are important and painful things. I take responsibility for everything good and bad that happened during my tenure as prime minister, including the events in October 2000 in which 12 Palestinian citizens of Israel and a Palestinian from Gaza were killed."
"I am once again expressing my regret and apology before the families," he said.
Israel's Arab minority -- who number more than 1.3 million -- are the descendants of Palestinians who were not ethnically cleansed from their land when the state of Israel was established in 1948.
They comprise about 17.5 percent of Israel's population.