JOINT LIST chairman Ayman Odeh holds a piece of paper with the word ‘corrupt’ on it toward Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Arab legislators are still seething over hidden cameras placed in polling stations in Arab villages. The subject came up again and again in the meeting of representatives of Hadash-Ta’al headed by Ayman Odeh. Theirs was the last of the six incoming Knesset factions to meet with the president on Monday. The remaining six are due to do so on Tuesday.
All the previous meetings had been held at intervals of roughly 15-20 minutes, specifically for the purpose of recommending to President Reuven Rivlin the Member of Knesset which each party considered to be the most capable of forming a government.
It was known in advance that Hadash-Ta’al would not recommend anyone, but they had to go through the motions and used the occasion to air their grievances about the hidden cameras, the Nation-State Law, the ongoing violence in Arab villages, the appropriation of Palestinian land for Jewish housing projects and the failure of the government to adequately provide for educational and other needs of Israel’s Arab population. In contrast to the earlier groups, their meeting with Rivlin last more than half an hour.
They accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of racism and incitement. Ofer Cassif – the Jewish member of the party – said that Netanyahu had lost sight of the Jabotinsky tradition.
After emerging from the meeting, they spoke much longer with the media than any of the other delegations.
Odeh said that they had not recommended anyone, because no-one had approached them. He also took exception to the fact that Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz speaks of Jews and non-Jews, deliberately avoiding the reference to Arabs. “We’re not non-Jews; we’re Arabs and proud to be Arabs” said Odeh.
Turning to the overwhelmingly Jewish reporters, Ahmad Tibi said: “Imagine if during elections in France, they would put 1,290 hidden cameras in polling stations in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods. There would be a huge outcry about antisemitism.”
That argument had also been raised in the meeting with Rivlin and he had understood it.
Tibi also told both the president and the media that democracy is not only the right to vote. “Democracy also means equal rights.”
Although all the meetings with Rivlin had been recorded on video and shown in the cramped space allocated to the media, every group that came out reported who it had recommended and why.
Shas and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) each stated that they were pleased with the Netanyahu-led administration and wanted him to continue to lead the coalition for the next four years. Both parties refused to answer questions related to Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who is insisting that haredim should no longer be exempt from mandatory national service.
Likud obviously recommended Netanyahu and Blue and White recommended Gantz.
Rivlin kept score, and at the end of the first round of meetings announced to Hadash-Ta’al that 51 MKs were in favor of one candidate and 35 were in favor of the other.
He didn’t name the candidates, though everyone knew who they were.
Tibi told the media in Hebrew, English and Arabic: “We did not submit any candidate. We are against Netanyahu and we have no reason to recommend Benny Gantz.”
Although there was no need for it, Meir Porush – who was part of the UTJ delegation led by Ya’acov Litzman – reminded Rivlin and repeated to the media that since 1992, his party had been part of the coalition of every Israel government without compromising its principles or its policies.
Moshe Gafni was very proud of the fact that a significant number of UTJ votes had come from the secular community. “This is a very meaningful change,” he said.
Every delegation in its opening remarks voiced the wish that Nechama Rivlin – the president’s wife who recently underwent a lung transplant – should have a complete and speedy recovery.
Rivlin thanked them all, but in the case of Hadash-Ta’al said “Nechama would thank you if she was here.”
An open doorway separated journalists from the reception hall where delegations waited until it was their turn to meet with the president, but members of the president’s staff would not allow journalists to cross the threshold.
There was a small inconveniently placed video screen, which was difficult to see because so many people were standing in front of it, and difficult to hear, because so many people were talking. They were either talking to each other, broadcasting to their TV and radio stations or talking on the phone. One member of a video crew was obviously not interested in politics, and was a watching a TV program on the screen of his cellphone. He wasn’t using ear plugs, and the sound was turned on at full volume.
The noise level was exacerbated by a demonstration across the road from the President’s Residence by a group of young members from the Movement for Quality Government, who were sitting in a large truck with an open side, and using a fog horn as they loudly screamed: “The nation wants to have confidence in the institutions of the state. The nation wants quality government. The nation does not want personalized legislation!” They kept up the din till well after the meetings had concluded.
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