Joint List should take part in the unity government combating coronavirus

This virus affects all parts of society. It does not care is you are religious or secular, Jewish or Muslim. In this war, Israel does not fight an Arab or a Muslim enemy.

AYMAN ODEH, leader of the Joint List, gestures as he hands out pamphlets during an an election campaign event in Tira. (photo credit: REUTERS)
AYMAN ODEH, leader of the Joint List, gestures as he hands out pamphlets during an an election campaign event in Tira.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel is in a state of war, and extreme measures are being taken in all fields of life. We feel it everywhere – the streets are empty, people are sitting at home waiting for this disaster to pass, a national emergency ordinance was approved by the cabinet.
Meanwhile, we almost forgot that only two and a half weeks ago an election was held here. The coronavirus panic earlier this week provided us with one of the weirdest shows this country has seen: new Knesset members taking oaths in small groups, with some not even being allowed to attend because they were suspected of having the virus.
While battling corona, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also battling to keep his chair. His opponent, Benny Gantz, is not making his life easier, as Blue and White holds steady as tough negotiators despite the harsh times.
A move that seemed like a breakthrough appeared on Wednesday morning.
Gantz said in a Facebook post that “when it comes to human lives – there’s no politics, Israel comes first,” adding a screenshot of a post written by Netanyahu, which said citizens should obey the new Health Ministry restrictions.
In response, Netanyahu said in a post: “Very important! Thank you, Benny.”
The Jerusalem Post’s Gil Hoffman reported that day that sources in both Blue and White and the Likud said the parties have set Monday as a deadline to reach a coalition deal.
This is important for Israel. After more than a year of mudslinging – in which all red lines were crossed, and the Israeli political sphere reached its lowest point in history – finally, the two leaders are showing us that there is no “First Israel” and “Second Israel.” We can still find, or at least try to find, the middle ground.
This disaster, which has hit the entire world, could help Israel heal its divisions.
An emergency coalition, which might be established next week, could – and should – include the Joint List.
In this Knesset, the Joint List is the only party that has Arab members. The other parties failed to include Arabs in places on their list that were realistic spots to get into the Knesset.
The idea of having a unity government – representing the entire political spectrum and comprising all parties in the house – could bring about the best results in the fight against COVID-19.
This virus affects all parts of society. It does not care is you are religious or secular, Jewish or Muslim. In this war, Israel does not fight an Arab or a Muslim enemy. This is our chance as human beings to join hands and fight it together.
This applies not only to the big parties that lead the country but also to the Joint List itself. In an interview with the Post last month, MK Ahmad Tibi said the party would not join any government in the near future. Joint List leader Ayman Odeh said in a tweet on Wednesday that the people who “are still contemplating about forming a unity government... should forget about it.”
This is not fair to the Arab public, of which almost 90% voted for the Joint List. Its leaders should understand the significance of this crisis and transcend above other disputes.  
In this once-in-a-century disaster, all of us should have representatives in the country’s leadership that makes critical decisions that affect lives.
Israel is taking drastic measures to combat the coronavirus. The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) received a green light to monitor citizens suspected of having the virus; the court system was suspended – and with it also the beginning of the prime minister’s trial; and the Knesset was forbidden from gathering and overseeing the actions of the government.
If the country can accept these extreme steps, which by and large it has thus far, it can also accept a government with elected representatives from all parts of society, including Arabs, who comprise almost 20% of its population.
This is a unique opportunity for a historic change. We shouldn’t miss it.