More Intrigue In Israeli Elections

A familiar face has introduced something new into the upcoming Israeli elections in September. Former prime minister Ehud Barak has formed a new party ahead of those elections and is working to unite the most left-wing Zionist parties behind him.

Barak characterized his new party as a challenge to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and for the moment, that’s what it is. But it is also an effort to unseat Avigdor Liberman from his position as kingmaker. Liberman has thrown the Israeli electoral system into disarray by essentially demanding that Likud, without Netanyahu, and Benny Gantz’s and Yair Lapid’s Blue and White coalition form a unity government. Read more at LobeLog

A Hopeful Opposition In Israel: FMEP Interviews MK Ayman Odeh

In 2015, Israel ushered in the most right-wing government in its history. But the same election produced another notable outcome: for the first time, Arab parties joined in a bloc with the sole Jewish-Arab party, Hadash, to form the Joint List. The bloc garnered 13 seats in the current Knesset, making it the third largest party and second largest in the opposition.

Ayman Odeh is the Chairperson of the Hadash party and the head of the Joint List. In these roles, MK Odeh has established himself as a respected leader, bringing a principled voice to the Aymanopposition while balancing the diverse and sometimes contradictory politics of his own List. It is not always easy, and MK Odeh has managed to keep his coalition together while positioning himself as a leader of a progressive movement within Israel. While other opposition leaders such as Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) and Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) have largely backed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in many of his policies dealing with both internal security and the Israel-Palestine conflict, MK Odeh has given voice not only to the views of minority groups within Israel, but also to moderates all over the world who support peace, Palestinian rights and a two-state solution.

In December, MK Odeh embarked on a groundbreaking visit to the United States, his first as well as the first of its kind for a political leader of Israel’s Palestinian community, where he met with many politicians, community leaders and activist groups. The trip, which was supported in part by the Foundation for Middle East Peace, demonstrated that there is a significant opposition in Israel, and that Palestinian citizens of Israel, like MK Odeh, believe themselves to be a part of the country and instrumental to charting a better future for both the citizens of Israel and the Palestinians living under occupation.

FMEP conducted this interview with MK Odeh between December 23, 2015 and January 2, 2016.  Continue reading at FMEP’s blog, “Facts on the Ground.”

Ayman Odeh vs Malcolm Hoenlein

Many of you might have heard about the incident where a meeting that had been set between Joint List Chair, MK Ayman Odeh and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations (COPJ) fell through at the last minute. The issue was that Ayman was unaware, prior to his arrival, that the COPJ offices were in the same place as those of the Jewish Agency. Ayman

Not surprisingly, Ayman had a problem holding a meeting in the offices of the Jewish Agency, which has done so much to help in the dispossession of Palestinians over the years, and continues to do so to this day.

I’ll be writing more about this in the coming days. But for now, the full story of what happened here (and there is already a good deal of misinformation out there) was reported by Lisa Goldman at +972 Magazine. I have been able to corroborate Lisa’s story with people who were there. It differs in important ways from the story COPJ Vice President Malcolm Hoenlein put out almost immediately. Crucially, it also reflects the hubristic attitude of the so-called “mainstream Jewish community.”

Hoenlein says that Ayman’s problem was that the Jewish Agency is a “Zionist” organization. This is, of course, absurd. Ayman has been meeting with a variety of Jewish groups during his trip to the United States, and most of them are Zionist groups. Indeed, COPJ itself, far from encouraging the “open discussion” that Hoenlein claims, has barred J Street, a very distinctly Zionist group, form its table because, by COPJ’s standards, J Street is not “Zionist enough.” Yet Ayman was prepared to meet with COPJ.

As Josh Nathan Kazis wrote in The Forward, “The cancellation…highlighted the ideological distance between even the most moderate Israeli Arab politicians and the American Jewish mainstream.”