Arab Israeli lawmaker: Election results a ‘slap in the face’ for Trump

MK Ahmad Tibi accuses US president of backing Netanyahu’s ‘racism’ and ‘atrocities,’ urges him to shelve his ‘anti-Palestinian’ peace plan

MK Ahamd Tibi, center, together with members of the Joint List hold a press conference after meeting with President Reuven Rivlin at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on September 22, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Ahamd Tibi, center, together with members of the Joint List hold a press conference after meeting with President Reuven Rivlin at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on September 22, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A senior Arab Israeli lawmaker on Sunday said that the results of Israel’s recent election, which have made uncertain the political future of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are also a stinging blow to US President Donald Trump.

“The result is a slap in the face not [just] of Netanyahu but also President Trump, who supports all the racism, all the atrocities and is preparing the most anti-Palestinian plan that has even been presented by the US,” Tibi told press in English.

“Mr. Trump, keep your deal,” Tibi said. “Please don’t play with the rights of the Palestinian people. Palestinians are a nation that deserve to be free. Can you understand that, Mr. Trump?”

The Trump administration has held the details of its peace plan close to its chest. Though it has said it will release the plan after last Tuesday’s election, it remains unclear when that will happen.

Tibi made his remarks after his party presented to President Reuven Rivlin its recommendation for who should be tasked with forming a government, choosing Netanyahu’s chief rival, Blue and White’s Benny Gantz. Rivlin will receive recommendations from all of the Knesset parties before tasking the party leader who has the most support with trying to form a government.

President Reuven Rivlin meets with members of the Joint List at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on September 22, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Despite selecting Gantz, the the predominately Arab Joint List asserted that it will not enter a coalition led by Blue and White.

Instead, Tibi explained, the party was seeking to end Netanyahu’s term in office.

“I hope that the recommendation of the Joint List will bring about the political end of the man who has incited against the Arab public more than any other prime minister in Israeli history,” he said. “Today, we have made the decision to take an active role in getting rid of him.”

“Benny Gantz is not our cup of tea. We have a lot of criticism of him, specifically regarding Gaza,” Tibi said of the former IDF chief of staff, who commanded Israel’s 2014 war against terror groups in the Gaza Strip. “But when we told our public that we would do all we can to remove Netanyahu from power, we realized that we would need to take a bold step.”

The decision to back Gantz marked the first time Arab parties — separately or together — have recommended a mainstream Zionist politician since 1992, when they supported Labor Party leader Yitzhak Rabin, who campaigned on peace with the Palestinians.

With the endorsement of the party, which holds 13 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, Gantz is expected to receive 57 recommendations for the premiership, compared to 55 right-wing and religious votes for Netanyahu. Compounding Blue and White’s chances of getting the nod from Rivlin is the fact that it won two more seats than Likud in Tuesday’s election.

However, neither Gantz nor Netanyahu has a clear path to forming a 61-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset. MK Avigdor Liberman, whose Yisrael Beytenu party won eight seats, has been left as potential kingmaker.

An Arab Israeli woman casts her vote during elections for the Knesset on April 9, 2019, at a polling station in the northern town of Tayibe. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Last Wednesday, Tibi attributed the Joint List’s success in the election — it increased the overall Arab Israeli representation in parliament by three seats — to a backlash against Netanyahu’s own campaign that was seen as attempting to suppress the minority vote and demonize them.

He told Channel 12 television that an unsuccessful bid by Netanyahu to try to rush through a law that would allow Likud to place cameras in Arab polling stations “set off alarm clocks at the entrances to every Arab town.”

Voter turnout among Arab Israelis rose significantly on Tuesday, reportedly 60 percent, as compared to the last national elections on April 9, when it was just 49.2%.

The Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan has raised widespread skepticism and has already been dismissed by the Palestinians, who say Washington is biased in favor of Israel.

Since he took office in 2016 Trump’s administration has recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and moved the embassy there, bucking decades of US policy, and upsetting the Palestinians who want the eastern part of the city as the capital of a future state. The US has also cut off funding to the UN’s Palestinian aid agency and not balked at Netanyahu’s repeated declarations that he will extend Israeli sovereignty to parts of the West Bank, territory the Palestinians want for their state.

The election deadlock could complicate Washington’s plans to finally publish its peace proposal. Israel has had a transitional government since the end of 2018, when the Knesset dissolved ahead of election held on April 9. Those elections did not produce a majority coalition for Netanyahu, and the prime minister, rather than risk letting Gantz try to muster a majority instead, pushed through a vote to again dissolve parliament, triggering Tuesday’s election and more political paralysis.

Rivlin, when he met with party leaders on Sunday, vowed to do everything in his power to avert a third national vote.

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