Just over three weeks before the Israeli parliamentary elections, the leader of the Arab party list says he is ready to enter " under certain conditions " into a center-left government. A statement strongly commented, because never the Arab parties were part of a government in Israel.
Arab formations were able to support the executive from outside, especially after the Oslo Accords in the mid-1990s, or to be part of a blocking majority. But they never agreed to enter a government. By declaring that he was ready to sit in a center-left executive if he accepted certain conditions, Ayman Odeh marks an inflection from an Arab Israeli leader. He, however, feels that his proposal is unlikely to be accepted.
Negotiations with Palestinian leaders
The conditions it poses concern both the peace process and the place of Israeli Arab citizens in society. He calls for the resumption of negotiations with Palestinian leaders, the annulment of the nation-state law adopted in 2018 that only recognizes the right of self-determination to Jews. He also wants the government to facilitate the construction of housing for the Arabs and establish a new public hospital in an Arab city.
His statements elicited many comments. Benyamin Netanyahu's Likud constantly accuses his main rival, Benny Gantz , of wanting to form a left-wing government with the Arab parties. An accusation launched to scare part of the electorate: only the right, says the Likud, is able to ensure the Jewish character of the State of Israel. And the party has seen in its statements of Ayman Odeh the proof that his accusations are well-founded. " This is the end of a Jewish and democratic state, " said the Minister of Culture and Sports.
A proposal far from reaching consensus
Blue and white, the coalition led by Benny Gantz has also quickly distanced itself from the statements of Ayman Odeh. " We can not associate with Arab parties that do not recognize the state of Israel as a Jewish state, " said Gabi Ashkenazi, one of the leaders of the coalition. On the other hand, Nitzan Horovitz, the leader of the left-most list deplored the speed with which Blue and White stood out from Ayman Odeh: " Less than an hour has he raised. It shows how far we have to go , "he says.
But many Arab politicians also took their distance. Without openly disavowing their head of the list, several Arab elected officials have indeed wanted to express that there was no change on their part. " We will not participate in a government of occupation, war and racism, " said one Arab MP.
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Faced with the reactions, Ayman Odeh recalled his conditions to enter the government: a way of marking that they are unlikely to be accepted and he does not see himself as a minister of a government led by Benny Gantz. But the head of the United Arab list believes it is time to " change Arab policy from a policy of protest to a policy of influence ." By showing that the Arab parties could eventually become government forces, he hopes to raise the participation rate in his community: it was only 49% in the April poll. Indeed, part of the electorate is tired of voting for formations constantly in the opposition.