Arab MKs to boycott Pence speech

Odeh cited Pence's evangelical Christian faith as a reason for the boycott.

January 20, 2018 22:28
3 minute read.
Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint Arab List

Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint Arab List. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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The 13 MKs of the Joint List will not attend Monday’s address to the Knesset by US Vice President Mike Pence, faction chairman Ayman Odeh announced Saturday on Twitter.

The Arab MKs had already announced that they would boycott the speech last month, after President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv. Odeh said his faction’s viewpoint had not changed since then.

Odeh cited Pence’s evangelical Christian faith as a reason for the boycott.

“This is a dangerous man with a messianic vision that involves the destruction of the entire region,” Odeh said. “He is coming as an emissary of an even more dangerous man, a political pyromaniac and a racist who must be prevented from trailblazing into our region.”

Odeh said last month the snub would “relay a clear message to the government in the US and to the world that there are citizens here who firmly oppose Trump’s declaration, and to clarify that the US lost its role as sole mediator” for peace.

“West Jerusalem will be recognized by the world as the capital of Israel right after the Israeli government recognizes east Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state,” he said.

Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi said Pence was one of the engines behind Trump’s decision, and the US administration is part of the problem, not the solution.

“Boycotting the speech is a demonstrative step to politically protest the [American] government’s dangerous stance,” he said. “Pence and Trump ignored the national rights of the Palestinian people and hurt Christian and Muslim Palestinians.”

Joint List MKs have boycotted other foreign dignitaries’ speeches, and on other occasions heckled them. When then-Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper addressed the Knesset in 2014, Tibi and other Arab MKs told him he should go sit with the Likud.

The Knesset changed its rules last year, so that when foreign leaders address the plenum, lawmakers can be thrown out after only one interruption, instead of the usual Knesset standard, which is three.

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Michael Oren (Kulanu) asked the Knesset Ethics Committee to take action against the Joint List MKs, including suspending Odeh.

“Knesset members cannot shame an honored guest of the Knesset,” Oren said.

Likud MK Anat Berko responded on Twitter by recommending that Odeh use the time during Pence’s speech to listen to addresses by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah and the ayatollahs of Iran who support Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

“You and your friends admire them and believe along with them in the coming of the Shi’ite messiah, the Mahdi,” Berko said.

Likud MK Yehudah Glick said Odeh’s decision would not help the Palestinian people.

“The king of Jordan and president of Egypt have no problem meeting with the US vice president,” Glick wrote on Twitter. “Only representatives of the Palestinians insist on remaining deep in yesterday’s mindset and afterward to complain that they were forgotten. Time does not work in their favor.”

Meretz MK Esawi Frej, an Arab, told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night that he would not boycott Pence’s speech.

“I will sit there and wait to see what he says,” Frej said. “If he says normal things, I’ll stay. If he says nonsense, I’ll get up and leave.”

The Palestinian leadership has also refused to meet with Pence. Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told Channel 1 that if the Americans renounce their recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, they would be willing to stop boycotting the Trump administration.

Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.

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