Will Joint List leader Odeh start to receive national security briefings?

“The big change in this election, the number one thing, is voter turnout in the Arab public,” Odeh said, adding that Netanyahu’s “incitement has a price.”

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September 19, 2019 02:21
2 minute read.
Will Joint List leader Odeh start to receive national security briefings?

MK Ayman Odeh, co-head of the Israeli-Arab Hadash-Ta'al party at a rally supporting the Supreme Court in Tel Aviv, May 25, 2019. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)

Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh could make history as the first-ever Arab opposition leader in Israel, which would involve his receiving monthly briefings from the prime minister and his top advisers on matters of national security.

“Opposition leader is an interesting job, and an unprecedented one for the Arab public” in Israel, Odeh said outside his home in Haifa on Wednesday.

Odeh argued that Arab-majority parties have always been the “real opposition” in the Knesset, and therefore the Joint List leader is the most appropriate for the job.

Asked about the security briefings the opposition leader receives, by law, from the prime minister, Odeh said he is focused on a different aspect of the position.

“What is most important is that this is an important platform to meet with the prime minister and meet world leaders and tell them about the Nation-State Law,” Odeh posited. “Finally, there will be an opposition.”

Odeh and the Joint List are still considering whether to recommend Blue and White leader Benny Gantz for prime minister. There may be a split between the Arab nationalist party Balad and the other parties in the Joint List on this matter, with Balad recommending no one. Historically, Arab parties have recommended only Yitzhak Rabin as prime minister.

Even if most of the Joint List does recommend Gantz, the bloc is unlikely to be part of a coalition in light of Israel’s continued control of the West Bank, the country’s Jewish character under law, and other policy positions that are anathema to it.

If Gantz forms a unity government, as he has promised, the Joint List, as the third-largest party in the Knesset, would be the largest party in the opposition, and Odeh would automatically become opposition leader. However, a majority of opposition MKs would have the option of voting in a different opposition leader.

Odeh said that he and Gantz did not come to any conclusions when they spoke after exit polls came in, but that they plan to have further discussions.

“We want to replace [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s government, but we are not in anyone’s pocket, and we have to hear many things from Gantz” before agreeing to recommend him, Odeh stated.

Odeh expressed pride that “we, the Arab citizens, with our votes, prevented the formation of an extremist right-wing government led by Netanyahu.

“The big change in this election, the No. 1 thing, is voter turnout in the Arab public...Without it, Netanyahu would be prime minister.”

“Abu Yair,” Odeh said to reporters addressing his remarks to Netanyahu by calling him “father of Yair” in Arabic, “incitement has a price.”

The Joint List may lose a seat by the time the official results come in. On Wednesday evening, the Central Elections Committee began counting the “double envelope” votes, which are mostly votes from soldiers, but also include diplomats and voters in prison and hospitals. Arab parties have lost out in the past once the entire vote count is complete.


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