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Aymen Odeh and the Joint List stand to gain if Herzog joins Netanyahu government

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After campaigning on a platform of “Anybody-but-Netanyahu,” Israeli opposition leader Issac Herzog is in discussion to join forces with the one man he said he would never work alongside in a unity government. While Herzog’s constituents are mad about it, analysts say Netanyahu is hoping to build favor with the Obama administration with a broader tent. Still it is the Joint List’s Ayman Odeh that might stand the most to gain and Herzog’s defection would leave him to lead the opposition, the first time a Palestinian citizen of Israel would ever be in that position.

Herzog’s move is not popular with his base. Israel’s Channel 2 found 60 per cent of Herzog’s Zionist Union members are against him teaming up with Netanyahu. His faction is a combination list of center-left parties at odds with the Prime Minister on issues ranging from the economy, to Iran to the Palestinian. Many in Herzog’s group believe Netanyahu is losing a democratic and majority Jewish Israel, to a one-state reality. They are against settlement expansion, but hope to see a final peace deal that includes land swaps where Israel would keep large blocs across the West Bank, proposal Palestinians have consistently rejected.

Nonetheless, the Zionist camp is the inheritors of Israel’s once influential peace movement even as Herzog has veered far from that path, such as when last month he declared his party members were no “Arab lovers. “A false impression exists that we take the needs of Palestinians into account before the needs of the State of Israel,” he said in the speech, reported the Jerusalem Post.

Ayman Odeh, leader of Israel’s third largest political party the Joint List, had sharp words for the Zionist Union for considering to join Netanyahu, “We at the Joint List are proud to be the de facto leaders of the opposition, offering a vision of a future of democracy, peace, and equality for all citizens,” Odeh said in a statement today. “If the Zionist Camp makes the mistake of joining Netanyahu, I will be proud to lead the formal opposition and bring forward a real alternative to Netanyahu’s dangerous administration.”

And in referring to Herzog, Odeh said, “Instead of offering a real alternative he has chosen to mimic the racist bluster of Netanyahu and his ministers. Herzog has shown that he is nothing but a pale shadow of Netanyahu, and one who is willing to sell his principles for a seat at the Government table.”

Odeh though would stand to gain by the merger. In a domino effect if Herzog joins Netanyahu and abdicates his position as leader of the opposition, Odeh would then step in becoming the highest-ranking Palestinian citizen of Israel in the government, throughout Israel’s entire history. This scenario would be a coup for Odeh. In Israel the position of opposition leader is more than a title. It comes with a platform, and Odeh would be entitled to meet with every foreign head of state who travels to Israel on official visits, and he would brief Israel’s parliament. 

So, why is Netanyahu interested in doing this?

Former negotiator under Kerry, David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Studies speculated that a unified left-right government could help Israel gain American support in halting Palestinian aspirations to seek intervention from the United Nations. The Palestinian leadership has announced a summer conference hosted by France to make inroads into drafting legislation for the Security Council to order an end to the occupation by a deadline.

Here’s Makovsky outlining Netanyahu’s challenges, which “could come toward year’s end, when the Obama administration is expected to decide whether to pursue a UN Security Council resolution that would outline the toughest issues blocking progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Here, too, Netanyahu fears an imposed solution and appears to believe Labor’s inclusion could allow Israel to modify its policies in ways that preempt such a move. A broader government would also give Netanyahu the flexibility to deal with a new U.S. administration.”

In other words, if Netanyahu forms a government with Herzog, he could benefit from increased U.S. backing over the Palestinian forays at the United Nations.

Based on the statement released by the Joint List it would seem Odeh agrees this is Netanyahu’s hope, and that Herzog’s help would only help strengthen the Israeli status quo: “Any expansion of the right-wing government will only help Prime Minster Netanyahu to fortify the politics of the Right, which is based upon incitement, hatred and racism. Netanyahu will continue to lead his policy of deepening the occupation and growing the settlements, with the Zionist Camp functioning purely as a fig leaf, especially in light of the growing international pressure on Israel.” 

Allison Deger
About Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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10 Responses

  1. just
    May 17, 2016, 3:49 pm

    WINEP? Indyk’s spawn? [Israeli settlements ‘screwed up’ Kerry peace talks, Indyk says–but U.S. is still Israel’s lawyer!- See more at: ]

    A most unsavory enterprise, imho. It’s integral to the grinding status quo that never means peace or justice.

    I entreat Mr. Obama not to fall for this repugnant, desperate, dangerous, and obnoxious charade of Netanyahu/Herzog.

    Good luck to Mr. Odeh and the Joint List.

  2. a blah chick
    a blah chick
    May 18, 2016, 10:01 am

    “Herzog has shown that he is nothing but a pale shadow of Netanyahu, and one who is willing to sell his principles for a seat at the Government table.”

    I must respectfully disagree with MK Odeh, Herzog doesn’t have any principles.

  3. ritzl
    May 18, 2016, 1:06 pm

    Great report Allison. Thanks for keeping tabs on these potentially profound developments.

    Does Jewish Israel have any more feet left to shoot?

    IIRC, wasn’t one reason Herzog declined to join a unity government in the first place specifically to avoid just this scenario? To prevent Odeh from having the specific rights accorded to the opposition LEADER? I could be wrong about that, but if correct, these feelers must mean the Jewish-Israeli body politic is really, REALLY between the proverbial rock and hard place and sees a pretty face for foreign consumption as more beneficial than enabling an official alternate view to be simultaneously presented to the same audience. Interesting and encouraging, imo.

    Odeh is one savvy and disciplined pol.

    The big question is whether notionally disaffected Jewish-Israeli voters will vote for a true democratic alternative to Israel’s rightward lurch – even though that alternative is an (ugh?!) Palestinian citizen of Israel. TBD.

  4. Shmuel
    May 18, 2016, 1:39 pm

    Yesh Atid and Yisrael Beiteinu (which may also enter the coalition) are unlikely to recognise Odeh’s authority as leader of the opposition, and the PM and Knesset speaker will undoubtedly do their best to empty the role of all content — beyond certain procedural privileges explicitly stipulated by law (but which can also be neutralised in various ways).

    Odeh’s “divisions” will thus amount to his own party and, to one extent or another, the tiny Meretz faction. In other words, no real change.

    • just
      May 18, 2016, 2:52 pm

      Perhaps more of the world will pay attention to the lie and sham that is Israel’s “democracy” then, Shmuel.

      As if it is not already ‘insane’:

      “Herzog: Policies of new government will be ‘verging on insanity’

      Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog said at a press conference … that the policies of a Netanyahu-Bennett-Lieberman government will be “verging on insanity.”

      “From now on, the citizens of the State of Israel will have to deal with a government whose policy will be verging on insanity,” Herzog said. “This I tried to stop.”

      Herzog blamed MK Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union), who opposed the negotiations with Netanyahu, accusing her of “extreme left-wing positions” and said that “she will bear the responsibility for the appointment of Lieberman as defense minister.”

      Herzog says he notified Netanyahu on Tuesday that the coalition negotiations reached a dead end even though the two reached some agreements. The Zionist Union leader says he asked Netanyahu to have the deal in writing, but Netanyahu refused.

      Herzog said that the achievements reached in the talks included a veto on building in the West Bank, a blanket veto on all racist legislation, “far-reaching” socioeconomic achievements, being in charge of Israel’s foreign affairs and diplomatic negotiations, as well as the defense portfolio, the foreign affairs portfolio, the economic affairs portfolio and seven more, plus five deputy ministerial positions, four Knesset committee chairs, including the prestigious Foreign Affairs and Security …”

      read more:

      (things could very well implode soon..)

      • a blah chick
        a blah chick
        May 18, 2016, 4:36 pm

        I like what Matt Duss had to say on his twitter feed:

        “I see it as positive that Herzog refashioning himself into a kinder, gentler racist ultranationalist alternative achieved him nothing.”

      • just
        May 18, 2016, 5:54 pm

        I like it too, ABC!

        “How Tony Blair, Egypt’s Sissi and John Kerry Tried to Push Zionist Union Into Netanyahu’s Coalition

        Blair mediated between the prime minister and Herzog, and also initiated the Egyptian president’s speech urging Israel to move forward in the peace process with the Palestinians.

        A list of international figures led by Tony Blair were behind a failed move designed to legitimize the addition of the Zionist Union to the Israeli ruling coalition, a move practically unprecedented in terms of massive international intervention in Israeli politics.

        Two sources in the Israeli political system say that Blair, the former British prime minister and representative of the Quartet, working with Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, is the one who pushed and encouraged Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi’s speech on Tuesday in which he called on Israeli political parties to agree on the need to advance the framework for peace with the Palestinians. …”

        read more:

        (Blair reappearing reminds me of Monty Python’s “Bring out your dead”)

  5. Kay24
    May 18, 2016, 5:16 pm

    It looks like the man who is blood thirsty like ISIS, and who has said:

    “The Israeli foreign minister and head of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party Avigdor Lieberman suggested during a campaign event that Arab citizens of Israel, who are disloyal to the state, deserve to be decapitated.

    “Whoever is with us should get everything,” Lieberman said in a speech at the Interdisciplinary Center in the western city of Herzliya on Sunday. “Whoever is against us, there’s nothing else to do. We have to lift up an axe and remove his head, otherwise we won’t survive here.”

    Has been offered the prestigious post of Minister of Defense by the chief of the zionists.
    The Palestinians need to be very afraid.

    LIVE UPDATES: Netanyahu Offers Hardliner Avigdor Lieberman Position of Defense Minister in Expanded Coalition
    read more:

    • just
      May 19, 2016, 6:36 am

      Gideon Levy:

      “With Lieberman as Defense Minister, Israelis Should Head for the Bomb Shelters …

      Something important happened on Wednesday; something that cannot be taken lightly for even a moment. … offering Avigdor Lieberman the position of defense minister is the crossing of a red line that has never been crossed. The offer has no legitimacy because Lieberman has no legitimacy, even if he was elected democratically. For the first time in Israeli history, fascism is a clear and possibly present danger. True, Menachem Begin’s election as prime minister evoked similar fears, as did the appointment of Ariel Sharon as defense minister. But those were other times, when Israeli society still had immune mechanisms, a system of checks and balances. They were eliminated long ago. Now the state is in the hands of someone who could destroy it.

      On Wednesday, a process that began nearly 40 years ago was completed. The right rules and Lieberman will soon be defense minister. If it weren’t so dangerous, it would be tempting to shout at the right, “We dare you.” To shout at the center-left: “We dare you to to keep quiet.” And to shout at the world: “Show them all.” Will you keep arming and funding this Israel? Will you continue to view a state in which Lieberman is No. 2 “the only democracy in the Middle East?”

      But the situation is too dangerous, my friends. Yes, Lieberman has a pack of court advisers, some of whom who even fancy themselves leftists, who explain that he’s a “serious man,” that he’s “a man of his word” and that he’s a pragmatist. But these statements have never been tested. Lieberman was never in a position to make decisions, and the test is too dangerous. And what if he’s not all those things? What if this cynical man discovers that carrying out his nationalist delusions and his racist remarks is his key to becoming prime minister?

      Do we need reminders about who this is? His proposal to blow up the Aswan Dam. His saying that Egypt’s then-President Hosni Mubarak could “go to hell.” His inflammatory theory that Palestinian terror is part of global jihad. The man who called members of Breaking the Silence “mercenaries who sold their soul to Satan.” Who called activists in Yesh Gvul “kapos” and said Arab MKs should be tried as in Nuremberg. Need we mention his incitement? Then there is his recent declaration that Elor Azaria, who shot dead an incapicated Palestinian assailant, is a hero. Need we mention that his party is corrupt to the core, the criminal allegations that he avoided by the skin of his teeth only because the attorney general is feeble?

      The man who made the Time Magazine 100 of influential world leaders in 2009 never really influenced things. Now, an opportunity has opened up before him and he is liable to exploit it. True, it could be that the wolf will become a sheep, that what you don’t see here what you see there, that his famous cynicism will lead him precisely to good places. However, there is another possibility, that Lieberman will be Lieberman. The Israel Defense Forces perhaps will try to stop for his sake, perhaps the Shin Bet, too.

      If Lieberman will be Lieberman, we will miss Benjamin Netanyahu. If Lieberman will be Lieberman, the territories will burn like they’ve never burned before. If Lieberman will be Lieberman, all Israeli Arabs will become enemies. If Lieberman will be Lieberman, no one will be able to complain about Maj. Gen. Yair Golan’s comparison with dark times. They will be here and now. However, if Lieberman will be Lieberman, Golan will not be Golan and Israel will not be Israel. If Lieberman will be Lieberman, this op-ed would not even be published.

      I was always for tearing off the masks off the face of Israel. On Wednesday, they were torn off finally. However, the price is liable to be too hard to bear. We should prepare the bomb shelters, for we are liable to need them soon.”

      read more:

      • Kay24
        May 19, 2016, 4:43 pm

        He is a vicious man, and the Palestinians need to worry what he and His Looniness may do.
        This is a sure sign that Israel is getting even more radical, right wing, and capable of even more evil around the world. Wile E. Coyote is signaling to the world that Israel is taking a turn for the worse.

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