Israel Election: Arab Party Holds Gantz Endorsement, Will Decide Only After Formal Request

Joint List leader Ayman Odeh told Haaretz 'We're 15-seats strong, and they should treat us accordingly'

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
Ayman Odeh (C) of the Joint List alliance, gives an address with other alliance leaders in Shfaram on March 2, 2020.
Ayman Odeh (C) of the Joint List alliance, gives an address with other alliance leaders in Shfaram on March 2, 2020.Credit: AFP
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

The Arab-majority Joint list admitted that their preferred option to end Israel's political deadlock is a fourth election rather than the cycle of recommending, or not, a candidate to form a government.

The party's leader Ayman Odeh told Haaretz Sunday “I won’t let myself sit and wait for Gantz… We’re 15-seats strong, and they should treat us accordingly.”

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During a meeting in Kafr Qasem with representative of all four factions of the alliance, the party members agreed to decide whether to back Gantz only after a formal request is ordered, and in any case after negotiations over political and civic issues.

Speaking to Haaretz, Odeh clarified that among party members it's understood that in the political realm, one can always find a formula that can lead to compromise. MK Mansour Abbas, chairman of the United Arab List faction, also voiced the same opinion. Regardless, the Joint list understands that as of this evening, no serious process of discussion has begun, and things are still underway.

The Joint List also stressed that they are in agreement as a unified party, despite attempts to present them as divided in light of Balad's opposition for the party's recommendation of Gantz to form a government in previous elections. "Our position as a party is not to recommend," Balad Chairman Mtanes Shehadeh told Haaretz.

However the Joint List will "decide as a faction and the plan is that we will be 15 united in one position with all its consequences," added Shehadeh.

According to Shehadeh, Kahol Lavan hasn't yet officially requested a recommendation from the Joint List.

The Joint List has been reluctant to back Gantz for the premiership after Kahol Lavan repeatedly and categorically ruled out any cooperation with the alliance in its election campaign. Nevertheless, if the Joint List does decide to recommend Gantz to President Reuven Rivlin, they will demand that he publicly present his stance on several political and civil issues that the alliance considers crucial before its lawmakers meet with the president for consultations.

A senior Joint List official said recently that the party fears that supporting Gantz would pave the Kahol Lavan leader's path to a narrow-coalition government at first, which would later disband in favor of a unity government with Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu and other parties after Netanyahu departs from the political scene. In such a case, the official says, the Joint List would lose its standing in the government.

Responding to the speech Gantz delivered Saturday, Joint List's Hadash lawmaker Aida Touma-Suleiman said that it's clear that the Kahol Lavan leader "doesn't understand that he won't get a recommendation from the Joint List without directly and publicly reaching out to the alliance."

Meanwhile, Senior Kahol Lavan member Moshe Ya’alon once again reiterated Monday that the party "won’t form any government with the Joint List,” but “won’t object” to their backing.

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