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Ayman Odeh: We Are Ending Netanyahu’s Grip on Israel
Ayman Odeh: We Are Ending Netanyahu’s Grip on Israel


The leader of the Joint List of predominantly Arab parties explains why it
will use its power to help make Benny Gantz prime minister of Israel.

By Ayman Odeh

Mr. Odeh leads the Joint List, the third-largest bloc in Israel’s
parliament, the Knesset, and is chairman of the Hadash Party.

Sept. 22, 2019


JERUSALEM — The Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel have chosen to reject
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his politics of fear and hate, and the
inequality and division he advanced for the past decade.

Last summer, Mr. Netanyahu declared that Arab Palestinian citizens of
Israel, who make up a fifth of the population, were to be second-class
citizens, officially. “Israel is not a state of all its citizens,” Mr.
Netanyahu wrote on Instagram
(https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/10/benjamin-netanyahu-says-
israel-is-not-a-state-of-all-its-citizens) after passing the Nation-State
law (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/19/world/middleeast/israel-law-jews-
arabic.html?module=inline). “According to the basic nationality law we
passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people — and only it.”

The Israeli government has done everything in its power to reject those of
us who are Arab Palestinian citizens, but our influence has only grown. We
will be the cornerstone of democracy. Arab Palestinian citizens cannot
change the course of Israel alone, but change is impossible without us.

I have argued earlier (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/08/opinion/israel-
election.html?module=inline) that if the center-left parties of Israel
believe that Arab Palestinian citizens have a place in this country, they
must accept that we have a place in its politics.

Today, those parties no longer have a choice. At least 60 percent of the
Arab Palestinian citizens
(https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/18/world/middleeast/israel-arabs-political-
parties-election.html?module=inline) have voted in the recent elections, and
the Joint List, our coalition representing Arab and Arab-Jewish parties, has
won 13 seats and become the third-largest list in the Knesset. We will
decide who will be the next prime minister of Israel.

On behalf of the Joint List, I am recommending that Israel’s president
choose Benny Gantz, the leader of the centrist Blue and White party, to be
the next prime minister. This will be the most significant step toward
helping create the majority needed to prevent another term for Mr. Netanyahu
- and it should be the end of his political career.

My colleagues and I have made this decision not as an endorsement of Mr.
Gantz and his policy proposals for the country. We are aware that Mr. Gantz
has refused to commit to our legitimate political demands for a shared
future, and because of that we will not join his government.

Our demands for a shared, more equal future are clear: We seek resources to
address violent crime plaguing Arab cities and towns, housing and planning
laws that afford people in Arab municipalities the same rights as their
Jewish neighbors and greater access for people in Arab municipalities to
hospitals. We demand raising pensions for all in Israel so that our elders
can live with dignity, and creating and funding a plan to prevent violence
against women.

We seek the legal incorporation of unrecognized — mostly Palestinian Arab —
villages and towns that don’t have access to electricity or water. And we
insist on resuming direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians to
reach a peace treaty that ends the occupation and establishes an independent
Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 borders. We call for repealing
the nation-state law that declared me, my family and one-fifth of the
population to be second-class citizens. It is because over the decades
candidates for prime minister have refused to support an agenda for equality
that no Arab or Arab-Jewish party has recommended a prime minister since
1992.

Yet this time, we are making a different choice. We have decided to
demonstrate that Arab Palestinian citizens can no longer be rejected or
ignored. Our decision to recommend Mr. Gantz as the next prime minister
without joining his expected national unity coalition government is a clear
message that the only future for this country is a shared future, and there
is no shared future without the full and equal participation of Arab
Palestinian citizens.

The morning after the exclusionary “nation-state” law was passed, I drove my
children to school and thought about raising them in a country that has
repeatedly rejected Arab Palestinian children. Israeli governments have made
this rejection clear time and again, from the years of military rule imposed
on Arabs in Israel from the founding of the state until 1966, to the
longstanding attempts to suppress Palestinian culture** **and the continuing
decision to occupy the lands and lives of our sisters and brothers in the
West Bank and Gaza.

Every time I take my youngest daughter, Sham, to her school, I see a passage
written on the wall from the Book of Psalms: “The stone that the builders
rejected became a cornerstone.”

By choosing to recommend Mr. Gantz, we have proven that cooperation between
people, Arab and Jewish, is the only principled political strategy that will
lead to a better future for us all. Countless people in Israel and around
the world will be grateful to see an end to Mr. Netanyahu’s long reign of
corruption, lies and fear.

We will continue our work toward a better, equal future, and our struggle
for civil rights, rooted in our national identity as Palestinians. There is
room enough for all of us in our shared homeland, room enough for the poetry
of Mahmoud Darwish and the stories of our grandparents, room enough for all
of us to raise our families in equality and peace.
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