March 26, 2019

Will Ayman Odeh Pick the Next Israeli PM?

“Israel’s Arab parties have never been part of the government coalition. But with elections just one month away, and the Zionist opposition in a frenzy to dethrone Benjamin Netanyahu, the country’s top Arab politician has begun imagining the unimaginable.

“We’re only 20 percent of the Israeli population and can’t do it alone, but without us it would be impossible,” Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint Arab List, told a Jewish audience at a packed event in Jerusalem this week. “The questions of occupation and racism have always been debated over our heads, but there can be no true democracy or peace without the critical mass of Arabs in Israel.”

Ahead of elections, the Joint List, currently the third-largest bloc in parliament, has split into two factions: Islamist Ra’am and Arab Nationalist Balad will run together, while Odeh’s socialist Hadash party will join forces with Ta’al, headed by veteran parliamentarian Ahmad Tibi. According to the most recent polls, Odeh’s party is expected to win between seven and nine seats in the elections, making his list a vital element in the left-right tug of war.

Netanyahu’s Likud has quickly adapted to this new political reality. In media interviews, government ministers began reciting the slogan “it’s Bibi or Tibi,” a motto created for the 1996 elections when Netanyahu defeated incumbent Shimon Peres.”

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