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Ayman Odeh in Ramallah, a Bridge to Peace or Ragged Red Carpet?

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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Senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub, listens to deputy Hamas chief Saleh Arouri (on screen from Beirut) discussing Israel's plan to annex parts of the West Bank, in Ramallah, on July 2, 2020.
Senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub, listens to deputy Hamas chief Saleh Arouri (on screen from Beirut) discussing Israel's plan to annex parts of the West Bank, in Ramallah, on July 2, 2020.Credit: AFP
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

What a scandal! The leader of the Joint List in Knesset, Ayman Odeh, went to Ramallah empty-handed. He didn’t give Hamas even a measly dollar, and nevertheless politicians and media outlets have been calling him a supporter of terrorism. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has permitted the transfer of $15 million in Qatari funding to Hamas several times, but no one has accused him of supporting terrorism.

On the contrary, masses of Israelis have turned out to vote for him. The path to patriotism is convoluted. The firestorm of criticism over Odeh’s attendance at Fatah’s and Hamas’ press conference in Ramallah is ridiculous. Why?

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* The Arab population of Israel is part of the Palestinian people, as are those who live in the Gaza Strip under a Hamas government and those living in the West Bank under a Fatah-led government. So don’t go into mourning every time a Palestinian meets another Palestinian, whether they are from Gaza, Jenin or Kuwait, or from anywhere else that they may have been unfortunate enough to find themselves. Israeli folks scatter the Palestinians to the ends of the earth, and then they’re angry if they say as much as “good evening” to one another.

Israeli governments have been holding intensive negotiations with Hamas – both diplomatic and security-related ones. The negotiations have been so secret that any schoolchild knows them in intimate detail. The only difference between these indirect talks and direct negotiations is that in this case, Egypt has served as an intermediary.

It’s similar to the nice childhood custom that we followed when we would argue, heaven forbid. We wouldn’t speak to one another directly, but we would start every sentence that we wanted to convey to our adversary with the Arabic “kullu – “tell him.” That’s what’s happening between Israel and Hamas. They’re “kullu” negotiations.

On the other hand, any Israeli leader who has tried to be a hero when it comes to Gaza has realized at crunch time that hard-line policies only bring disaster (to both sides). Israel can’t subdue the Gazans by force, when it comes to a choice of life or death. In a reality that is tougher than death, frequently they prefer death, preferably a fast one. A single bomb and it’s over.

* Odeh came to say: Enough with this farce. Enough with this game of hide-and-seek. Let’s adopt another formula. The new formula is based on Palestinian unity and a solution based on UN resolutions. That’s the message of the Palestinian people that the vast majority of the Arabs of Israel support. Both Hamas and Fatah are seeking a state alongside Israel in accordance with UN resolutions.

Israel, on the other hand, wants annexation in the West Bank, and on top of that is seeking to continue the strangling siege over both Gaza and the West Bank. And then they accuse the Palestinians of terrorism, while the occupation and the siege are the origin of the terrorism.

We have grown up on and at this point are getting old with the slogan that the Arabs of Israel are the bridge to peace with the Arab world. But when the Arabs of Israel roll up their sleeves and rush to fulfill their role as a bridge, they are denounced as supporters of terrorism. It turns out that the Israeli overlords want the Arabs to be the ragged red carpet under their feet to make their pursuit of the occupation that much nicer.

We should remember, and memory is helpful, as the Arabs say, that Israel has been asking in anguish: How can we conduct negotiations with the Palestinians if they are splintered? But when they try to achieve unity, it cries in anguish that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is linking up with terrorists.

Now Yamina MK Bezalel Smotrich is seeking to cleanse the Knesset of Ayman Odeh. As is known, Smotrich is the current link in the chain of generations stretching back thousands of years. So firstly, in light of the blatant ugliness of this man’s political creed, it might be worth examining whether some kind of virulent virus has invaded this dynasty. And secondly, perhaps the time has really come for the Knesset, like the Israeli media, to be cleansed of Arabs.

What’s the big deal? What’s so bad about taking a lesson from the media in the “only democracy in the Middle East”?

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