Joint List Leader May Have One More Reason to Topple the Israeli Government

The bylaws of Joint List leader Ayman Odeh’s Hadash faction reveal one factor that Odeh may consider in his calculations to stand with or vote against Bennett's fragile government

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Joint List leader Ayman Odeh at a press conference in February.
Joint List leader Ayman Odeh at a press conference in February.Credit: Noam Rivkin Panton

On Monday, when the Knesset returns from recess, efforts to bring down Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government will be front and center as the opposition presents a motion of no confidence, perhaps as well as a motion to move up the Knesset election.

But a little-known provision in the bylaws of the Hadash party – one of three making up the opposition Joint List faction – could be a factor in the timing of the election.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, the largest in parliament, doesn’t currently have a majority for bringing down the government. With the coalition and the opposition at a 60-60 tie, the search for one more defector from the coalition continues.

The main question hovering over the opposition's effort is whether the Joint List would provide the government a safety net in a crunch to prevent it from falling.

The bylaws of Joint List leader Ayman Odeh’s Hadash faction reveal one factor that Odeh may consider. Section 4 makes it difficult for Hadash Knesset members to be reelected after a continuous period of eight years. It bars any member from serving longer than that unless the member receives permission from two-thirds of the members of the party’s council who are present for the vote.

If the next Knesset election is held after March 2023, Ayman Odeh would have exceeded eight years as a lawmaker and would have to secure the two-thirds majority from Hadash’s council. Sources from Hadash has said that such a two-thirds majority would be almost impossible to secure, meaning that Odeh, who was elected for the first time on March 31, 2015, would find himself out of the Knesset.

That would be a primary consideration for Odeh in deciding whether to provide the government the necessary votes to remain in office, a Joint List source said, since if the government falls this year, Odeh could run for a new term as a Knesset member without needing two-thirds support from his party’s council. “All of the internal issues in Hadash play a role for every one of the party’s members. There’s nothing that isn’t in play,” the source said.

The requirement may also be significant for another Joint List Knesset member, Ahmad Tibi, the head of the Joint List’s Ta’al faction. Currently, Odeh and Tibi dominate the largely Arab Joint List, and there is no agreement between Hadash and Ta’al and the third party in the faction, Balad, regarding who would lead the Joint List in future elections. The issue has even led to a splintering of the Joint List in the past.

If Odeh were to leave the political arena, Tibi’s prospects of leading the Joint List might be bolstered. Therefore, Tibi would purportedly have an interest in keeping the Bennett-led government in office until next year.

But Hadash members have adamantly opposed having the Joint List led by anyone other than one of their own, since Hadash is the largest party in the three-party faction, and they would be expected to maintain that stance in the future – even if it is someone other than Odeh.

Ta’al has two members in the current Knesset – Tibi and Osama Saadi. The two of them alone might provide a sufficient safety net to keep the Bennett government in office.

Support for the government dropped to 60 lawmakers when Yamina's Idit Silman defected to the ranks of the opposition last month. At the time, Odeh said he had no intention of providing the government with a safety net. “This government is bad, to such an extent that we cannot be part of it,” he said. Later, however, he softened his tone.

For his part, Tibi hasn’t spoken out on the issue and has left his Ta’al party’s stance on the matter somewhat unclear.

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