ODA: Workers' party demands talks with PA [pg. 3]

In another installment in a series focussing on smaller parties running in the upcoming election, today The Jerusalem Post puts the spotlight on Da'am. A workers party, Da'am is the Arabic acronym for the Organization for Democratic Action. The party is known in English as ODA. ODA was founded in 1995, and the election for the 17th Knesset will be the fourth election for the party. While ODA has never had a representative in the Knesset, Roni Ben Efrat, a party founder and spokeswoman, said she hoped this election would bring a change. ODA, the only party to have a woman heading its Knesset list, is fielding 55 candidates in next week's election, 29 of whom are Arabs. Asma Agbarieh, the No. 1 on the party's list, said her work at the Workers Advice Center, a nonprofit association established by ODA, had provided her with an opportunity for "natural integration." "Many of the WAC officials are women," she said, "and the workers are used to this. Since the last election, we have found jobs for more than 2,000 people." Privatization and globalization have harmed the Israeli economy in general and Israeli-Arab workers in particular, according to Agbarieh. "The idea of a workers party, first raised in our 2003 campaign, has today become a historical necessity, dictated by political and economic realities," she said. ODA's platform has adopted strong positions on both social and political issues, she said. The party has drawn up a platform centered around employment issues, said Ben Efrat. She said ODA represented low-skill workers who said their rights were being violated by the Wisconsin Program, the government's welfare-to-work project. "The fact that many low-skilled workers don't find jobs [comes] because of competition from [foreign] workers who are imported to the country, by the government, to work in agriculture and construction. These are companies who enjoy slave labor and ultimately prevent local workers who do want to work from finding jobs," Ben Efrat said. ODA opposed unilateral withdrawal in the West Bank, she said. "We think that the consensus among parties like Kadima, Labor - even Meretz to some degree - which gives up any prospect for bilateral negotiations, is a disaster," Ben Efrat said. "This is unacceptable in international relations, and it will create such misery and discontent on the Palestinian side, and in the long run it will just lead to a third intifada," she said. ODA was looking for a solution that was acceptable to the Palestinians, said Nir Nader, ODA's No. 2 candidate. "The failure to take the needs of the Palestinian people into account, and the lack of cooperation from Israel's side, contributed to the ascent of Hamas in the recent election," he said. Ben Efrat said ODA offered a viable solution for long-term peace. "Israel has to recognize Palestinian representatives; we also call for Hamas to recognize Israel. They must enter into a political process which will end in the withdrawal from all the territories Israel conquered in 1967," Ben Efrat said.