Members of the Joint Arab List gesture during a news conference in Nazareth, January 23.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Joint (Arab) List will file a complaint on Monday with Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on charges of incitement and racism.
A delegation from the party told President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday that Netanyahu is a danger to democracy, and that the projected incoming right-wing government will be a very dangerous government.
They said Netanyahu employed incitement on Election Day to thwart their basic democratic right to vote.
The Likud leader on Tuesday called on his supporters to vote because “the right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are going en masse to the polls.”
In response, Balad MK Jamal Zahalka – No. 3 on the Joint List – asked: “What does he prefer, that we throw stones instead of placing slips in the ballot box?” Rivlin conceded that there had been incitement and mudslinging by both Arabs and Jews during the election season.
“People should be careful about what they say, especially people in high places whose words are heard by the whole world,” Rivlin said. The president urged both Jews and Arabs to desist from incitement.
“I want you to achieve great things for the Arab sector that voted for you.”
Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List and of the Hadash faction, said his party was not interested in national security, the Foreign Ministry or the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, but in defending the national identity and the rights of the Arab population.
He promised to be a powerful force in the 20th Knesset.
“We come with great pride in the fact that the Arab community placed its confidence in us and accepted its democratic obligation,” he said, noting that this election saw the largest Arab voter turnout since 1999.
The Joint List was among six parties that met for consultations with Rivlin on Sunday to recommend a candidate to form the next government.
The party’s delegation met with the president but it did not nominate a candidate to form a government. Pressed by the president to select someone, both Odeh and Zahalka said that they would consider voting for Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog, but did not officially endorse him.
Rivlin congratulated the faction for succeeding to merge people with radically different viewpoints, saying “it seems that this can only be done in Israel.” The Joint List is made up of representatives of Balad, Hadash, the United Arab List and Ta’al.
Rivlin told the delegation he hoped they would continue to stay together, to which UAL ’s Masud Gnaim responded: “We will stick together.
This is our mission. Democracy is not only the rights of the majority but also the rights of the minority.”
Gnaim decried the fact that “the prime minister came out against people who wanted to exercise their right to vote,” and said the delegation had accepted Rivlin’s invitation in order to protest Netanyahu’s actions, and not because it wanted to nominate someone to form a government.
Rivlin noted that he had personally called on every citizen of Israel to go and vote and that one of his goals as president is to try and eradicate discriminatory practices.
Israel is a Jewish state, Rivlin said, but “we must never forget that it is also a democratic state.”
Members of the delegation were warm in their praise of Rivlin’s conciliatory attitude, but were sharply critical of statements made by Netanyahu, Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, Bayit Yehudi head Naftali Bennett, and Kulanu chairman Moshe Kahlon, who they said had announced they would not sit in any coalition with the Joint List.
Zahalka said his party would propose a number of anti-racist bills once the Knesset is in session.
Saadia Osama of Ta’al said Netanyahu had crossed all red lines, and his comments on Arab voters were totally unacceptable.
“We cannot allow it to pass without protest,” he said.
Balad’s Basel Ghattas said the Joint List views Netanyahu as “an illegitimate candidate” who will “prevent any peaceful solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.