Joint List, Arab Public Split Over Backing Gantz-Lieberman Government

Joint List faction United Arab List and Ta’al leaning towards support, disagreements expected within Hadash

Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh with Mtanes Shehadeh at the party's campaign launch in Tel Aviv, August 20, 2019.
David Bachar

Two of the four parties in the Joint List alliance of Arab parties favor giving support from outside to a minority government headed by Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz, even if it includes Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party.

Roughly half of Israeli Arab citizens also think their parties should support such a government from the outside, a new poll shows.

The two parties that lean toward supporting a minority government with Lieberman are the United Arab List and Ta’al. In Hadash, the largest of the four Arab parties, the matter is expected to be strenuously contested in party institutions. But Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh, who also heads Hadash, plans to work to put it into action.

The fourth party, Balad, has said it won’t support any government of which Lieberman is a member. But Joint List sources said they don’t think Balad will ultimately torpedo the idea.

Sources in Hadash said Odeh will argue that a Gantz-led minority government shouldn’t be ruled out, and that the party should negotiate with Kahol Lavan over such a government’s platform. But just last week, three Hadash MKs joined three Balad MKs in saying they wouldn’t support any minority government that includes Lieberman.

Odeh doesn’t currently think a minority government is a realistic possibility in any case. But that could change over the next two days.

Speaking to Army Radio, Joint List lawmaker Mansour Abbas said that his party “doesn’t rule out negotiations with Kahol Lavan and will consider any proposal presented to us.”

Mansour added that “our contacts with Kahol Lavan began before the [September 17] election, and were implemented when we recommended Gantz [to President Reuven Rivlin] to form a government.

“But lately, because of the operation in Gaza, we had no contacts,” the lawmaker added in reference to the recent two-day Gaza flare-up that came after Israel killed top Islamic Jihad leader Baha Abu al-Ata.

Mansour added that the Joint List seeks not to be part of a future governing coalition at this point in time.

Also on Sunday, after representatives of Kahol Lavan and Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu met, the two parties released a joint statement saying “significant progress” had been made, particularly on the issue of the relationship between religion and state. The parties’ representatives were to meet again on Monday, according to the statement.

A joint statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and  Yisrael Beiteinu said the two party leaders finished an hour-long meeting that included a “practical and good” discussion centering on forming a unity government.

Factions within Kahol Lavan are in disagreement over the make-up of a minority government, with some still preferring unity with Likud, Joint List officials told Haaretz on Sunday.

A meeting between Kahol Lavan and Labor-Gesher yielded progress toward an agreement on the fundamentals of a future government, a joint statement said.