A WOMAN walks past a campaign billboard for the Joint (Arab) List in Umm el-Fahm yesterday.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Joint List put a great deal of time and resources into its Hebrew-language election campaign, but its recent efforts to coordinate moves with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas demonstrate that its rhetoric about integration may not have been sincere.
Abbas announced on Saturday that all of the Joint List’s MKs will soon visit Qatar, which has supported Hamas and other Islamist movements in the region.
Abbas made the announcement during a meeting in Ramallah with Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh and the founder of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Abdallah Nimer Darwish.
Odeh, who is also the new chairman of the Arab-Jewish Hadash party, has put forth a different Arab face to the Jewish public, one that speaks to all of society, not just the Arab sector.
Reut Mor, the Joint List and Hadash party spokeswoman in Hebrew, told The Jerusalem Post during the campaign that the mostly Arab candidates in the Joint List had decided from the beginning to reach out and speak in a new way, trying to appeal to all sectors of society.
However, such outreach is not going to go down well with most Jews if Israeli Arab politicians continue to visit Israel’s foes.
Such rhetoric therefore may be viewed as merely deception and renew many Jews’ suspicions, who view it as a means to play the democratic game in an effort to change the identity of the state from within.
Mordechai Kedar, director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation) and a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, told the Post in an interview on Sunday that Odeh deserves credit for correctly reading what his constituents want from him.
“On one hand, they want to see him taking care of Israeli Arab concerns that have been neglected by Arab Knesset members,” argued Kedar. This is something that has to be addressed, and Odeh realizes this, Kedar said.
“But on other hand, he can’t turn his back on the Palestinians and he wants to have a good relationship with Abbas,” as this could allow him to improve his connection to the Obama administration.
Kedar said that Odeh’s strategy is to get Abbas to influence the US administration so that it would manipulate Israel on Israeli Arab issues.
Asked about Odeh’s rhetoric in the Hebrew media prior to the election, which used conciliatory language, Kedar replied that Odeh was hopeful about gaining Jewish voters, especially those who were planning on voting Meretz.
Odeh and Meretz “were actually seeking to address the same crowd,” Kedar said.Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.