Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint Arab List, August 22, 2019.

Joint Arab List chairman Ayman Odeh, who had earlier declared that he would be willing to be part of a center-left coalition government, on Sunday told Reshet Bet radio that since it’s becoming clear that Blue&White chairman Benny Gantz is aiming for a unity government with Likud after the September 9 elections, he, Odeh, with a projected 11 mandates, is emerging as the future first Arab chairman of the Knesset opposition parties.

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“Gantz is not politically and intellectually ripe,” Odeh said, adding that if Gantz “had Rabin’s courage – I would have had the courage to join a blocking bloc.”

A permanent blocking bloc is part of the parliamentary reality of a minority coalition government, when every day can result in a vote of no confidence that possibly takes the nation on yet another Italian-style national election. When a given government is trying to push through legislation which opposition parties are also supporting – most notably a two-state solution – it takes a crafty and able opposition chairman to enforce a loyal opposition that would safeguard the attempted peace process, in this case.

Here’s the drub: according to the law, the prime minister must invite the opposition leader, as needed but no less than once a month, to chat and update him on state affairs. This means that if Odeh becomes the first Arab leader of the Knesset opposition, this would obligate the prime minister to update on foreign affairs and state security a politician whose slate spawned at least three members that violated the State of Israel’s security laws.

A week ago, Odeh announced that he would agree to join a coalition government, saying, “We will only be partners in the government if the Arab citizens are no longer treated as second-class citizens.”

This did not go over well in his own faction, and came close to threatening its very existence. MKs on his list condemned his statement, which Balad chairman Mtanes Shehadeh called “miserable.” Mtanes vowed that the Joint Arab List would never be part of the coalition.

Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Liberman responded with a somewhat farfetched, even dystopic scenario that “what lies behind this bizarre message is an attempt to seal a dangerous move to create collaboration between Likud and the Joint Arab List, with a goal of establishing a government with the Haredim with the support of the Arab parties.”

Blue&White co-chair Yair Lapid also responded, saying his party would not sit in one government with Balad.

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