Israeli Arab Lawmaker Meets Lebanese Druze Leader, Call for Unity Among Palestinians

In the Paris meeting, Jumblatt calls for unity in the face of Israeli government efforts to 'harm and disrupt' the Arab public.

Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt leaves the Elysee Palace in Paris following a meeting with French President Francois Hollande, February 21, 2017
Reuters/ Philippe Wojazer

Knesset member Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint List, met Saturday in Paris with the Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt.

“The Progressive Socialist Party, since its founding by Kamal Jumblatt (Walid Jumblatt’s father) is the party that has been the most supportive of the Palestinian issue, even if there are differences between us in concept and vision, especially over the last decade,” Odeh said, adding, “The very fact of the meeting and discussion is very important looking at the party and its work for the Palestinian issue.”

Jumblatt, who is considered one of the most influential figures in Lebanese politics and one of the most prominent leaders of the Druze in general, is part of the camp that has expressed unqualified support for the Palestinian struggle. He has met with Druze leaders from Israel and Jordan and has called for the members of the Druze community to oppose draft into the Israel Defense Forces. Jumblatt has also warned against what he calls the detachment of the Druze in Israel from their Druze national identity, a position that drew criticism from Druze in Israel, who called on him not to involve himself in internal issues.

Odeh’s bureau said in a statement that the issue of national affinity of the Druze came up in their meeting, in stressing the importance of national unity among all Palestinian citizens in the face of what the statement called the extreme right-wing government and Israel’s official policy to harm the Arab community in Israel and incite against it.

Jumblatt has been critical of Syrian presence in Lebanon and opposed the regime in Damascus as far back at the time of Hafez Assad, the father of the current Syrian president. He also opposed the arming of Hezbollah. Nevertheless, he is known in Lebanon for changing his positions in keeping with political developments in the country and the region and based on the interests of the Druze community in Lebanon.  

Despite Jumblatt’s belligerent statements against Israel, there have been reports in Israel that he has held meetings with Israelis, including former President Shimon Peres. Such meetings have been denied by Jumblatt’s bureau, while Israel did not respond to them.

Last week Jumblatt announced that he was passing leadership of the party to his son Taymour, at a ceremony attended by thousands held at the family home, the Mukhtara, southeast of Beirut. Placing a Palestinian kaffiyeh on his son’s shoulders, Jumblatt said, “On your shoulders rests the kaffiyeh of occupied Palestine, the kaffiyeh that represents opposition to Israel everywhere.”