Odeh's Statement on Supporting Center-left Coalition Causes Political Stir
Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh, Arab lawmaker in the Knesset, has caused a political stir when he announced willingness to join a coalition of center-left parties in Israel.
In an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper on Thursday, Odeh said he doesn’t rule out recommending President Reuven Rivlin to assign Head of Kahol Lavan’s party (Blue and White) Benny Gantz to form the next government after the September general elections and join a coalition under his leadership if it’s willing to accept a list of political demands.
Among these demands are pledging to work to achieve equality for Arab citizens (48 Palestinians), axing the controversial nation-state law, resuming negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and refraining from waging wars on Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular.
The newspaper considered these remarks “a historical turning point in the usual position of Arab leaders, who had previously supported center and left governments and sometimes joined opposition groups, but always as opposition members.”
Right-wing parties slammed Odeh, saying “a Palestinian terrorist would become a minister in the Israeli government if Gantz was elected as the premier.”
Radical right-wing parties in the Arab circle in Israel attacked him while Israeli left-wing parties welcomed his statement.
Leaders of the Israeli left parties welcomed this statement as an advanced step to cooperate in overthrowing Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing rule.
Ehud Barak, the former prime minister and defense minister who had established the Democratic Camp alliance with Meretz, said that Odeh's statement reveals new wave of wisdom and intelligence in the Arab policy.
“The left-wing in the Jewish community has also become politically mature and believes that Arab citizens are an integral part of Israel,” he said, adding that no discrimination policy should be pursued against them and they should be granted their rights to equality without any reservations.
Barak noted that he appointed an Arab deputy minister in his government in 1999 and believes that Arabs have the right to be represented by one or two ministers.
He pointed out that many Arab youths have potentials that should see the light and be exploited by being given the chance to participate in leading Israel.
Head of the Meretz party Nitzan Horowitz, for his part, said Odeh’s statement is very important and most importantly exposes the forces that reject equality and reconciliation, whether from the Jewish right-wing or the Arab nationalist movement. However, most of the responses were negative on both sides of the Israeli party map.
Some of Kahol Lavan’s members expressed reservations about the alliance with the Joint List, so as not to disappoint the right-wing public.
Blue and White lawmakers Gabi Ashkenazi and Yoaz Hendel ruled out the possibility of a future government partnership on Thursday.
“We think Israel’s Arab citizens are equal and that’s how we should treat them,” Ashkenazi told Army Radio.
“We respect Israel’s Arab citizens and view them as citizens worthy of all rights, but we will not sit with the Arab parties which fundamentally reject Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. Full stop,” Hendel stressed.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan of the ruling Likud party was quick to react, tweeting that “now it is clear that whoever votes Blue and White will likely get a left-wing government with a terror supporter.”
Avigdor Lieberman also rejected any cooperation with Odeh, saying he is a terrorist who should be in the Palestinian Legislative Council in Ramallah.