Ayman Odeh, the chairman of the Joint Record of Arab events, is without doubt one of the few Israeli politicians anticipated to profit from the third Knesset election inside a 12 months. The Joint Record is gaining power, and Odeh is having fun with nice recognition. It’s arduous to stroll down the road in Haifa with out each Arabs and Jews hugging and kissing him – at the least those that don’t name him a terrorist, in fact.
This heat reception is partly the results of Odeh’s private appeal, but it surely additionally stems from his latest political strikes. He advisable to President Reuven Rivlin that Kahol Lavan chief Benny Gantz kind the subsequent authorities, and he has proven a willingness to be a part of the bloc to forestall Benjamin Netanyahu from remaining prime minister.
In keeping with Dov Khenin, a former MK from the Joint List‘s Arab-Jewish Hadash get together that Odeh additionally leads, “Ayman is a pacesetter who marches on the entrance of the camp however retains in contact along with his group. He has the braveness to maneuver forward with out placing his toe within the water first to verify the temperature; he strives in order that his constituency will actually comply with him.”
Nonetheless, Odeh’s toes are additionally encumbered by heavy weights, beginning with the problem of becoming a member of an Israeli authorities – one that will proceed the occupation and perhaps go to struggle in Gaza. There’s additionally the embarrassment over discuss out concerning the failure of Arab nationalism within the area. So his maneuver room is the narrowest for any Israeli political chief – regardless of his appeal and braveness.
Consequently, he has to decide on simpler targets. The primary is to assist forge a governing coalition of 61 of the Knesset’s 120 seats – with out Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu get together. “It’s not a miracle, it’s lifelike,” Odeh says. “We want two extra MKs for us and two for Kahol Lavan. That’s it. We’ll produce our seats – my job is to boost voter turnout in the Arab community from 60 p.c to 65 p.c.”
Will you advocate Kahol Lavan’s Benny Gantz for prime minister once more?
“Our suggestion was technical, with the principle suggestion being not Netanyahu. Gantz can flip our technical suggestion right into a elementary one if his strategy is that of the Rabin authorities within the ‘90s. In such a case, we’ll act the best way we acted then and we’ll be a bloc” to forestall Netanyahu from remaining prime minister.
Within the first spherical, you had clear circumstances to participate within the bloc: annulling the nation-state law, rescinding the legislation that stiffened punishments for building violations, combating crime within the Arab group and securing funding for Arab municipalities.
“I feel we made a mistake with our circumstances. It’s not that they aren’t essential, they’re essential and we’ve got to implement them. However I’ll inform you the place the error was. Take, for instance, the difficulty of old-age pensions. What does it imply 67-year-old man and girl obtain an old-age pension of three,200 shekels [$925] a month?
“Why wasn’t the Joint Record’s primary demand that with out elevating the pension by 2,000 shekels, we wouldn’t start [negotiating] something with anybody? This time we’ll have calls for for all of the needy folks within the nation. It’s proper morally, but in addition it creates a scenario the place we inform poor Jews that we’ve got one thing in widespread. I need them too to need us to succeed.”
Might or not it’s that these steps are since you realized that whereas the Arab leaders talked about Palestinian nationalism, the Arab group was extra excited about life itself?
“I’ve an issue with this viewpoint. I stand behind the whole lot I mentioned earlier, however crucial factor is peace. So far as I’m involved, the top of the occupation will change the whole lot utterly right here.”
How far are you prepared to go for the Israeli mainstream? If Gantz desires to nominate you a minister, will you settle for?
“I don’t like these official positions.”
Will you refuse?
“It’s not prepared but. They’re nonetheless even having a tough time swallowing the advice. When Gantz agrees to sit down with us and have his image taken, he thinks about it a thousand occasions. So what are we speaking about?”
Overlook about Gantz and his fears. I’m asking what you need.
“There’s no level speaking about such a scenario. I do know Kahol Lavan. Do you suppose it’s potential for us to sit down with [Kahol Lavan MKs] Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser? If I sit in a authorities that’s occupying the Palestinian people, if youngsters in Gaza are harmed, I received’t be capable of enter the restaurant the place we’re sitting now. If there’s a severe peace course of and there are three or 4 social points the federal government will commit to deal with, will probably be potential to consider a bloc in a severe means. Is [Moshe Ya’alon’s] Telem get together prepared for it? I don’t suppose so.”
Are they those who blocked the institution of a minority authorities?
“I understood from my discussions with Kahol Lavan that sure, they had been. In the course of the suggestion interval and after it, I sat with Gantz, Yair Lapid and likewise with Bogie Ya’alon. I’m telling you that there was a willingness on the a part of Gantz and Lapid that we’d be a bloc to deliver down Netanyahu, however Ya’alon insisted an incredible deal that Lieberman be in. He didn’t object to our being a part of the bloc, however he needed Lieberman to be inside.”
Everybody talked about Lieberman not agreeing to be in a authorities with you. What do you suppose if there’s a scenario the place to interchange Netanyahu there’s no alternative however to hitch collectively in a bloc?
“There’s no means we’ll sit along with Lieberman – not within the authorities and never in a bloc.”
After he resigned from the cupboard and moved to the opposition, he actually sat his get together’s Couch Landver between the 2 of you. What’s the supply of this horrible loathing? Do you could have any relationship with him?
“No. Zero relationship. He has by no means spoken to me. He doesn’t converse with anybody from the Joint Record.”
As a result of they’re Arabs?
“Clear and easy. Not too long ago he has tried to divide the Arab group from its leaders, however when he talks about inhabitants swaps, he doesn’t need to transfer solely two MKs, however a whole group. So he’s additionally a racist, a liar and a hypocrite. We’ll by no means cooperate with him.”
How did Kahol Lavan deal with you in the course of the negotiations?
“I feel Kahol Lavan needed to deal with us like a mistress. They needed to make use of us for 2 or three months simply to throw Bibi out after which kind a unity authorities. [Kahol Lavan MK] Ofer Shelah sat with us secretly and requested us to not inform anybody. I advised him that first we’ll end the suggestions, then we’ll reveal the negotiations. They usually, like a person who doesn’t need anybody to know he’s having an affair, had been very indignant. I did it deliberately, to indicate everybody that we had been speaking and the sky didn’t fall. We sat, took photos and talked collectively.”
Principally you’re telling me that what I’m citing right here, the potential for you being appointed a minister, is completely not possible – you’re combating for a photograph with Gantz.
“Since 1948 there hasn’t been a photograph of Arab MKs sitting in coalition talks. There aren’t even photos of Arab MKs with Rabin in 1992. That is essential for legitimacy for Arabs. Since the events of October 2000 we’ve change into illegitimate, each on the correct and on the left. Considered one of my most essential objectives is get the Arabs – 20 p.c of the inhabitants – to be a professional and integral a part of Israeli society. So far as I’m involved, to advocate Gantz and sit with him in entrance of the cameras was an essential step.”
Odeh says he can see that his actions have led to modifications within the Arab group.
“As we speak we’re not on the similar level as three months in the past,” he says. “Now I’m studying that within the polls 54 p.c of Kahol Lavan voters mentioned Gantz ought to have fashioned a authorities with our help. I consider that that is due to these actions. We have to let Kahol Lavan stew in it, and we’ll see the place they’re heading.”
You repeat that you simply’re dedicated above all to eradicating Netanyahu. Is a unity authorities of Kahol Lavan and Likud led by a somebody like Gideon Sa’ar a greater possibility for you?
“All of the prime ministers we’ve had from Ben-Gurion to Ehud Olmert are liable for 10 p.c of the incitement towards Arabs. Netanyahu is liable for the remaining 90 p.c. So to start with we’re linking up with Kahol Lavan to deliver down Netanyahu. In a case such as you’ve simply described, I’ll be probably the most militant opposition chief there was. Lastly there shall be an actual opposition. And for the primary time there shall be an Arab chairman” of the opposition.
Will you obtain safety from the Shin Guess safety service, which interrogated you if you had been 16?
“We’ll take into consideration all that when the time comes.”
All through the interview, Odeh’s most essential message is a name for Labor-Gesher and Meretz to unite. This might assist his get together as a result of such a link-up might ship Meretz’s far left to vote for the Joint Record, however my impression is that he’s being sincere and his actual purpose is to finish Netanyahu’s rule and attain the 61 MKs wanted – with out Lieberman. That is extra essential than a couple of extra votes from Jewish leftists.
“There are ideological variations between Meretz and us,” he says. “Between us and the Labor Celebration it’s greater than ideological variations – it’s your entire historical past. However all of us want to indicate some duty. We now have to ask how everybody can contribute their half to interchange the rule of the correct headed by Netanyahu.”
As Odeh places it, if he will be in an electoral alliance with the Islamic Motion, Labor Celebration chief Amir Peretz can do the identical with Meretz chief Nitzan Horowitz.
“If 10 years in the past you advised me that we in Hadash would go together with the Islamic Motion, we might have advised you that this was ridiculous. Amir Peretz is a leftist who believes in peace based mostly on two states,” Odeh says.
“Take into consideration what this meant for a Mizrahi, the top of the Sderot native council, to say in 1983 that we would have liked to speak to the PLO and Yasser Arafat. Not after Oslo, however after the [first Lebanon war] in 1982. So can the Labor Celebration and Meretz not sit collectively? What’s the distinction if his No. three on the ticket is from Meretz or Merav Michaeli” from Labor?
However, as an alternative of Meretz, this man of peace you’re describing prefers Orli Levi-Abekasis, who voted for the nation-state legislation and for Fania Kirshenbaum’s initiative to research nongovernmental organizations.
“Gantz might have led the bloc extra successfully; for instance, if he thought-about give Levi a spot in Kahol Lavan. Anybody who actually desires to interchange Netanyahu has to suppose how there will be as many individuals as potential on this bloc.
What do you suppose is the supply of Peretz’s stubbornness?
“He believes he can win two seats from the correct. With all due respect, I don’t suppose he’s proper. Those that vote right now for Amir Peretz are the traditional 4 Knesset seats of the Labor Celebration, and he and Orli Levi-Abekasis perhaps herald one other two seats. It’s not a transfer that breaks the ethnic and sectoral [voting patterns] which have at all times served the correct and Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Shas is 100 p.c Mizrahim, United Torah Judaism is 100 p.c Ashkenazim. Likud has change into 85 p.c Mizrahim, Meretz is 90 p.c Ashkenazim, Lieberman is 90 p.c Russians and sadly the Joint Record is 90 p.c Arabs.
“Not way back, a Mizrahi man grabbed maintain of me; poor man, he had a Star of David greater than his chest and it was solely there to say: I’m not an Arab. I checked out his face and thought he was an Arab – till I noticed the Star of David. Who can break the ethnic-sectoral dichotomy into a distinct political and social platform?”
You head probably the most sectoral get together, as you your self say.
“The large division within the nation is the nationwide cut up, and we’re a nationwide minority. What we’re lacking after the founding of the Joint Record is to take one other step ahead and take into consideration a broader Arab-Jewish framework. The Joint Record has two issues. As for its composition, it has just one Jew and that’s not sufficient in any respect. Plain and easy. As for its platform, it’s a platform that’s good for all of Israeli society.”
Even the restricted Jewish illustration on the slate, Ofer Cassif, stands out for his very harsh rhetoric in comparison with Dov Khenin’s model. Possibly Khenin would have been higher for the get together now, contemplating you’re making an attempt to combine.
“There are variations between Dov and Ofer, however I feel each of their approaches are essential. Ofer locations a mirror in entrance of Israeli society, the harshest mirror, and that’s essential.”
Massive components of the Jewish-leftist group, and I assume on the Arab left too, want to see you lead a left-wing Arab-Jewish get together based mostly on true cooperation. It appears to me that your coronary heart is there too. Will you do it after the election?
“The instant want is to strengthen the Joint Record and get it to 15 seats. So far as I’m involved, that is the No. 1 purpose. Within the close to future, we’ve got to protect the Joint Record whereas constructing a well-liked Jewish-Arab motion.”
How would such a motion look?
“On the constructive aspect, there’s the instance of Peace Now within the ‘80s and ‘90s. On the opposite aspect, there’s Gush Emunim. A preferred motion can change issues from the underside in a really severe means. After that, let the dynamics change issues. “
You possibly can’t let another person do the work. You’re within the enterprise now, it’s your watch. You possibly can set up a celebration that can change the image for your entire left wing.
“I’m not taking one other step ahead with you as a result of these are a historic two months. So far as I’m involved, crucial factor for now’s to achieve 61 seats with out Lieberman.”
Might or not it’s that it’s factor for you if Meretz disappears? A big section of its voters will come to you.
“Have you ever heard [Defense Minister Naftali] Bennett speak about annexing Area C now? What’s extra pressing, to cease the correct or get a couple of extra votes? I’m not desirous about that in any respect. The variations between us and Meretz are clear, however we are able to’t allow them to not go [the electoral threshold]. It’s an essential motion, and that is completely not the time to assault Meretz.”
Possibly the Joint Record can also be an obstacle to the left-wing bloc?
“Then I, as head of the get together, will inform you that, sure, not the whole lot is ideal. We’re lacking loads of issues. Considered one of this stuff is Arab-Jewish cooperation. It’s there in concept, it’s within the platform, however not within the slate. Indubitably we’ve got to enhance right here.”
You speak about a purpose of 15 Knesset seats for the Joint Record. What number of Jews would you wish to have on the slate, ideally?
“In my goals, I’d attain 30 seats; 15 Arabs and 15 Jews.”
Can this imaginative and prescient embody the Arab nationalist Balad and the Islamic Motion, that are within the Joint Record?
“Balad’s platform is democratic and liberal. When there’s crude racism, there are components that separate themselves from the remainder and withdraw. However when there’s hope, then all of a sudden they carry their heads and say, walla, let’s transfer ahead. It’s potential.”
A brand new type of democracy
Odeh says that within the September election, slightly below a seat’s price of Jews voted for the Joint Record. He strives to struggle for each Jewish vote, which signifies the cooperation he desires to see.
What do you supply a Jewish voter along with solidarity with the Arab group?
“The Joint Record’s platform is the true left within the nation. Not simply by way of measurement – not Labor with six seats and never Meretz – but in addition by way of its platform.”
Balad, whose precept is Arab nationalism, that’s the left?
“In political phrases, sure. On the political map in Israel, Balad is on the left. There’s little doubt that it’s sophisticated, even with the Islamic Motion. Its ideology isn’t leftist, however as a result of in Israel crucial line between the left and proper is the peace course of – not economics and social insurance policies like in Europe – they too are on the left.
“Solely our platform can present nationwide rights to 2 peoples, social equality to 2 peoples and likewise set up a real democracy within the nation. I keep in mind that after we talked about two states for 2 peoples within the ‘80s, they attacked us from each route. As we speak, everyone seems to be in the identical place.”
Once you speak about two states, what do you imply? A Palestinian state and a Jewish state alongside one another, or like your colleagues in Balad: a Palestinian state and a state of all its residents?
Among the historic compromise is that every one of us have to acknowledge that the Jews deserve the correct to self-determination within the State of Israel as a result of they’re a folks, and the Palestinians, who’re a folks too, ought to understand their proper to self-determination in an unbiased Palestinian state. However the correct of the Jews to understand their self-determination right here within the State of Israel doesn’t should hurt our civil and nationwide rights in any respect.”
The Declaration of Independence, which Meir Vilner of the Israeli Communist Celebration additionally signed, is a professional doc in your eyes?
“It is a declaration that was written on the victims of our people in 1948. Solely Jews signed it. It’s the antithesis of my view of what partnership is. We now have to be companions in constructing the way forward for the nation.”
So what’s the definition of such a state the place the Jewish folks can understand their proper to self-determination? The nation-state of the Jews? A state that’s the nationwide dwelling of the Jews?
“I choose a dialogue on content material greater than a dialogue on symbols, as a result of a dialogue on symbols is neither sensible nor far-reaching. In the event you ask a median Israeli whether or not Arabs deserve nationwide rights, he’ll say they deserve civil rights – however solely the Jews deserve nationwide rights. He’ll say the Arabs have 22 nationwide homelands – as if Libya had been my nation; I don’t even know what it seems like.
“However if you ask an Israeli, ‘Do you agree that the Arabic language ought to be an official language because it has been since 1922? Do you agree to acknowledge the massacre at Kafr Qasem, when folks got here dwelling and had been massacred? He’ll agree. In spite of everything, for instance, the publish workplace has stamps of [Arabic-language writer] Emile Habibi. Does that trouble anyone?”
Once you arrived on the President’s Residence to make your suggestion for prime minister, you scurried on the entrance as a result of it was uncomfortable so that you can have your image taken with an Israeli flag.
“I need to see myself within the symbols of the nation based mostly on our proportion of the inhabitants. I need for all of the nation’s symbols to replicate the point of view the place the nation is supposed for all of us and never only for you. I converse as little as potential about symbols as a result of I see that there’s an unfair sport right here. There are unrecognized villages within the Negev that don’t have water or electrical energy, and once I struggle for them, do they arrive and ask me, ‘What concerning the nationwide anthem?’”
What concerning the Regulation of Return, or establishments just like the Jewish Nationwide Fund?
“Sufficient about it. What’s this JNF? The place are we dwelling? A standard nation has to behave in a standard means and never in a temporary-emergency means …. In emergency circumstances a sure outlook is feasible, or to come back to a selected settlement, however the Regulation of Return undoubtedly must be modified.”
Do you consider your self if you speak about two states? Can it actually occur?
“Completely. The Palestinian state have to be established with the 1967 borders alongside the State of Israel. I assume we’ll vote for any settlement between the PLO and Israel that’s introduced earlier than the Knesset. Anybody who talks a couple of single state is both perpetuating the prevailing scenario, or they’re telling us to attend 30 years till the Jews are satisfied, after which launch negotiations.
“How can that occur when the hegemony and assets are of their palms? We’ve reached the scenario right now the place half the persons are in favor of two states, so now we’ll despair? I can’t sit on Mount Carmel and inform the residents of the West Financial institution behind the checkpoints to attend one other 30 years. A left-wing mental can’t sit on Rothschild [Boulevard in Tel Aviv] and inform the Palestinians in Gaza to attend.”
Once you ask Odeh concerning the risky area, a specific amount of embarrassment is apparent. He tries to stroll between the raindrops. We met instantly after the killing of Iranian Quds Drive chief Qassem Soleimani by the US, which a few of his Joint Record colleagues have condemned.
The message towards the assassination as a violent act and the worry that the area is deteriorating into even better violence is obvious. However what do you concentrate on this man?
“The Iranian regime clearly isn’t the regime I’d need to stay underneath. I disagree with it from an ideological perspective; I’m secular on the day-to-day degree. However I don’t need assassinations and I don’t desire a struggle to interrupt out. As well as, I see that the US’ presence within the Center East has price the lives of hundreds of thousands, and what pursuits it’s benefit from the oil and assets within the area on the expense of the peoples.”
The issue within the Center East and Persian Gulf is the US? Not Iran? Not Hezbollah, which is aiming missiles at my home and yours?
“Once they requested Muhammad Ali to struggle in Vietnam, he mentioned: ‘No Vietcong ever known as me nigger.’ So no Iranian has ever known as me a grimy Arab. It’s my place. I nonetheless suppose the principle situation within the Center East isn’t the axes of the extremists and moderates, however the Palestinian situation. In 2004 all Arab international locations and Islamic international locations submitted the Arab peace initiative that every one the international locations signed, together with Iran. And right here in Israel they mentioned no. The Israeli rejectionism is the issue right here.”
I really feel that points in our area are uncomfortable for you. You possibly can’t determine with Hezbollah, however you may’t condemn it absolutely both. So that you escape into criticism of Israel and the US.
“One of many tragic issues is that somebody like me has no mannequin that I can level to and say, ‘That is what represents me.’ For instance, if I needed to vote in Lebanon, I might vote for the Communist Celebration. Can I help the dictatorial regimes within the Center East and the primitive regimes within the Gulf? No. However if you happen to ask me who brought on the best evil to humanity within the final half century, I might reply with out hesitation: the US.”