Edelstein: Arab Joint List is illegitimate partner for gov’t coalition

But says no ethical problem for Netanyahu to be premier while under indictment, trial

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein on the night the 22nd Knesset voted to disperse (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein on the night the 22nd Knesset voted to disperse
The Arab political parties are an illegitimate coalition partner due to their anti-Zionist platforms, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said on Monday.
Speaking at the Conference of Presidents annual leadership mission, he also said there was no ethical problem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu serving as premier while under indictment and on trial.
Edelstein was addressing the ongoing political deadlock, as a third election within 12 months rapidly approaches, with polls suggesting that neither of the two political blocs will secure a majority to form a government.
The Blue and White Party did conduct talks with representatives of the Joint List of Arab parties after the previous September election with a view to forming a minority government supported externally by the list. But it ultimately rejected the idea.
“Obviously, any minority is legitimate, and there is nothing wrong with having Arabs in the Knesset and in the government,” Edelstein said. “But having anti-Zionist forces who openly support terrorism, who praise terrorists who killed 10, 20 or 30 bystanders – uninvolved civilians – doesn’t turn even an Arab into a legitimate partner for a coalition.”
He also rejected any suggestion his stance was discriminatory, saying he was as opposed to the positions of Jewish MK Ofer Cassif, who is a member of the Joint List, as he is to those of some of the Arab MKs.
“To use this rhetoric of saying, ‘You’re against Arabs, you’re a racist, you’re an apartheid state’ – it has nothing to do with reality. I am against those who support terrorism,” he said.
Regarding Netanyahu’s upcoming trial on three corruption charges, Edelstein was asked if he saw ethical problems with the prime minister serving while indicted and, as he shortly will be, on trial over those criminal cases.
“Everyone is innocent until proven guilty – including the prime minister,” he said.
Edelstein cited former justice minister Yaakov Neeman, who was indicted and resigned his position before standing trial but was subsequently acquitted by the court of the charges against him.
“I don’t want to be in the situation once more when Yaakov Neeman got back and said, ‘Where is my portfolio,’ and the portfolio was taken. All the more so for the prime minister, when there is no way back, practically,” he said.
Likud is one of the few parties where both its leader and its list are elected. Netanyahu won a landslide victory in the Likud primaries against Gideon Sa’ar.