Joint List Leader Calls on Arab Israelis to Leave Security Forces Posts

Ayman Odeh's comments pour cold water on the possibility of the Arab Joint List aiding the Bennett government, which now lacks a majority

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Ayman Odeh, the leader of the main Arab faction in Israel's parliament, last week.
Ayman Odeh, the leader of the main Arab faction in Israel's parliament, last week. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

The leader of the main Arab faction in Israel's parliament called Sunday on young Arabs who have enlisted in the country’s security forces to quit their jobs, drawing criticism from across the entire political spectrum.

"I call on those who have enlisted, who are a small minority, between 1 and 1.5 percent, throw your weapons in their faces," Ayman Odeh said in a video posted Sunday and filmed at Jerusalem's Damascus Gate. "We don't need to be with them, not part of this crime,” he said, “but rather on the same side as our people, in order to end the occupation.

“It’s a disgrace that a young Arab or the parents of a young Arab would agree to enlist and serve in the security forces, which are actually forces of the occupation,” said the Joint List leader, whose faction is in the opposition in the Knesset.

Odeh added that he had recently met with groups of young East Jerusalem Palestinians who alleged that they had been attacked by Arab police officers.

Tensions between Palestinians and Israeli forces in the West Bank have been on the rise following a series of Israeli raids in response to a recent wave of Palestinian terror attacks that has taken the lives of over 14 Israelis over the last two weeks.

On Monday, the police submitted a request to the state prosecution asking it to examine whether Odeh's remarks meet the criteria of criminal incitement. Additionally, Odeh's comments were translated by the National Cyber Crime Unit of Lahav 433. Because he is a member of the Knesset, the decision to investigate Odeh remains in the hands of the General Attorney.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked accused Odeh of incitement, saying that he belongs outside the Knesset and that no agreement could be made with him. Shaked's statement was a reference to reports over the last several days that the governing coalition — of which she is a part and which lacks a majority following the defection of her Yamina party colleague Idit Silman — may now need to seek the Joint List's cooperation.

The defection of Silman, who had been the coalition whip, leaves the government headed by Naftali Bennett, who is also from Yamina, with control of just 60 of the 120 seats in the Knesset. Following Silman’s defection last week, Odeh announced that the Joint List would not help Bennett save his government.

"We will not be a lifeline," he said. "This is a bad government that we cannot be a part of."

The Yamina party also denounced Odeh. "The Joint List will not be a part of the coalition or the government, contrary to reports," the party said Sunday. On Monday Bennett added that he was "proud of the Arab soldiers serving in the Israeli Army."

Odeh's call for young Arab Israelis to refrain from serving in the security forces also drew criticism from the center-left.

Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev of the Labor Party called the comments "infuriating, dangerous and irresponsible,” while Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan of the Meretz party, slammed Odeh for "working against the interests of the Arab citizens of Israel."

The right wing party Yisrael Beiteinu supported the dismissal of Odeh from the Knesset in a tweet. The party condemned Odeh's "severe words of incitement... against Israeli security forces and the state," and said Odeh's comments demonstrate his support of terrorism.

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