Over the weekend Ayman Odeh, the leader of the “Joint List” of Palestinian parties in the Israeli Knesset, gave an interview to Time Magazine in which he explained the decision by 10 of the 13 List legislators to endorse Benny Gantz of the Blue/White party to be prime minister. Odeh said the main reason for the endorsement was to block the Trump/Netanyahu plot to annex the West Bank and Jordan Valley. Odeh said:
The main purpose of what we did was preventing Netanyahu from making the Deal of the Century with Trump, which would end all possibilities for peace. We also want to prevent Netanyahu from forming a government with [the hard right] Yamina Party and annexing the Occupied Territories.
Odeh went on that Gantz’s Blue/White lacks the courage of even Yitzhak Rabin in the ’90s, to take steps toward ending the occupation. But Odeh chose to pick the “bad” over the “worst.”
We don’t have the privilege of the 1990s when there were strategies and policies towards creating peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now the options are between annexation and managing the situation; making peace is not part of Gantz’s ideology. Every government will be bad but we want to prevent the worst.
So Odeh is saying the “managed conflict” model, in which the occupation continues indefinitely, is preferable to the Zionist right wing’s plan of annexation.
We keep asking if the New York Times is ever going to profile Odeh, the leading Palestinian voice in Israeli politics. When will the Times give him a chance to to talk about how he regards Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a role model, and allow him to undermine Netanyahu’s lie that Palestinian citizens of Israel support “bloodthirsty terrorists?”
Odeh’s conciliatory statements to Time make it even more understandable why the liberal Zionist group J Street has invited him to speak at its conference next month. U.S. liberal Zionist groups oppose annexation; ten of them launched a new lobby network of Jewish groups so as to oppose annexation. The Joint List is plainly the strongest political voice in Israel against annexation (stronger than the Meretz/Democratic Union/Labor/Gesher bloc, which won only 11 seats).
The Time interview is yet another signal that liberal American Jews need to forge partnerships with Palestinians. Consider that a liberal Zionist icon, Tzipi Livni, said in a speech earlier this year to an American Zionist group that she was never raised to have a “vision” of a Palestinian state. She explained that a Palestinian state was merely a pragmatic necessity to insure her actual vision, the nation-state of the Jewish people. With rhetoric like that, it is no wonder that, as Livni acknowledged in that speech, young American Jews are growing alienated from Israel. Ayman Odeh does not go in for such racial talk.
When Odeh explained his endorsement last week in the New York Times he did not mention Trump’s deal or annexation. At that time he said he wanted to oppose Netanyahu’s racist incitement and bring down his premiereship. Odeh continued in that vein in the interview with Time‘s Joseph Hincks:
I was in favor of all 13 of our party members endorsing Gantz for prime minister. Not because he was the right candidate to represent our interests, but because this is the only chance for us to get rid of Netanyahu. We also wanted to send a message to the Prime Minister that after his incitement against us, we will be the ones to put him down.
Odeh was explicit about racism.
Netanyahu was the most anti-democratic threat to the Arab population since Israel was under martial law in the 1950s.
And as for Netanyahu getting first crack to try to build a governing coalition, Odeh said: “I think and hope that Netanyahu will fail.”