Back in the fall of 2015, Israelis rejoiced in the very public humiliation of the Joint Arab List chairman, Ayman Odeh, by the mayor of Nazareth, Ali Salam. The incident took place after several weeks during which Arab politicians brought demonstrators (who turned rioters) to the largest Arab city in Israel, as part of the emerging intifada. Chairman Odeh was live on the Channel 2 News show, speaking to the folks in the studio from a street corner in Nazareth, when Mayor Salam pulled up in his car and started scolding the senior MK, telling him his demonstrators and riots are destroying the city’s economy, as not a single Jewish customer had shopped there for several straight Saturdays.
“Go away, go home,” the mayor screamed at Odeh – on live TV. “Go look for things to do elsewhere, you’ve ruined the city for us. Go, go away. I’m the mayor, what are you doing to us?”
The politician obviously wanted to bury himself under the cement sidewalk right there and then, and the video went viral, obviously showing that Israeli Arabs would rather live in peace and prosperity than go demonstrate for “Palestinians.”
Odeh and his allies, most notably the very vociferous MK Haneen Zoabi, did not forget, and both of them taped support videos for Salem’s rival in last Tuesday’s municipal election, Walid al-Afifi. A wall-to-wall coalition of all the Arab political parties and splinter groups coalesced in Nazareth to get rid of the “treasonous” mayor.
In the end, Salam won a landslide victory – 65% vs. 35% for al-Afifi, leaving his enemies shell-shocked.
Salam has already stunned Israeli Arab politics when he won the mayoral election for the first time in 2013, stealing the leadership of the largest Arab city in Israel from radical left-wing Hadash, which had held it for decades and turned it into the political capital of the Iraeli Arab public.
Salam has also regularly infuriated the Arab politicians, coming out openly and regularly against Arab MKs who “think their job is to shout and provoke riots.”