After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s desperate eleventh-hour bid on Wednesday night to lure opposition MKs into a governing coalition that would give him a majority of seats in the Knesset, lawmaker Ayman Odeh of the Arab Hadash-Ta’al party mounted the Knesset podium to mock the prime minister and inject some comic relief into the frenzied parliamentary proceedings.
Relating to Netanyahu’s penchant for issuing “dramatic announcements,” and feigning apology to fellow party members Ahmed Tibi and Aida Touma-Sliman for not having talked to them in advance, Odeh joked that Netanyahu had approached him seven minutes earlier to ask him to join the governing coalition, promising that Israel would withdraw from all the territories it captured during the 1967 Six Day War and would cancel the controversial Jewish Nation-State Law, passed in July, which defines the State of Israel as the national homeland of the Jews.
Furthermore, Odeh continued, to hoots of laughter from the floor, Netanyahu had expressed willingness to recognize the civil and national rights of the country’s Arabs and even to recognize what the Palestinians call the Nakba (catastrophe) — their term for what befell them when Israel was established as a state.
The prime minister’s only demand was support for legislative efforts to protect him from prosecution in three criminal cases and to weaken the legal system to make it much harder for the Supreme Court to override Knesset decisions, Odeh said, in reference to real proposals put forward by Netanyahu allies in recent days.
“I don’t know how to respond. I didn’t even have time to consult with you. And I’m looking at the clock,” Odeh concluded in jest.
During the campaign leading up to elections on April 9, Netanyahu delegitimized Israel’s Arabs and implied that they represented a fifth column, using his own nickname in an oft-repeated slogan, “It’s Bibi or Tibi.”
In the final hours before the midnight deadline for Netanyahu to form a governing coalition with at least 61 seats, Channel 12 News revealed that Likud negotiators had reached out in vain to both the Labor and Blue and White opposition parties, offering various members inducements to join a Netanyahu-led coalition.