Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met Saturday in Ramallah with Joint (Arab) List leader Ayman Odeh and Israel’s Islamic Movement leader Abdullah Nimar Darwish.
Abbas told the two that the Arab League is set to invite all the members of the Joint List to the group’s headquarters in Cairo and to a meeting of its council in Doha, Qatar, Ynet reported.
Odeh’s meeting with Abbas came ahead of a planned meeting between the Arab party leader and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which was confirmed Wednesday and is expected to take place in the coming week.
Netanyahu requested Wednesday to meet Odeh in a bid to reconcile with the Arab community.
Odeh confirmed the invitation and indicated that he would take the prime minister up on his offer, but candidly rebuked Netanyahu for using the meeting as a publicity stunt to boost his political standing. He said his party would use the meeting to object to home demolitions, push for recognition of Bedouin towns in the Negev, and advance his equality plan for Israel’s Arab citizens.
“I would like to believe that Netanyahu understands the terrible mistakes he made recently, but it seems that this is only a cosmetic move for the media, as is his wont. His office leaks the information about the meeting to the media even before it was scheduled. We want a work meeting, not a PR meeting,” Odeh said.
On Election Day, March 17, Netanyahu posted a video on his Facebook page, appealing to his supporters to get out and vote to offset the “droves of Arabs” making their way to polling stations.
Days later, the prime minister later apologized for his comments. Speaking to a group of representatives of the Arab community who he invited to his office, he said: “I know the things I said several days ago offended some of Israel’s citizens, hurt the Arab citizens. This was never my intent. I apologize for this.”
Odeh had called the apology a duplicitous “flip-flop.” So long as Netanyahu “advances racist legislation… and does not promote real equality” for Israel’s Arabs, said the incoming MK, the prime minister’s apology would not be acceptable or credible. The Arab party members were not invited to attend Netanyahu’s apology meeting.
Odeh’s Joint List garnered a strong 13 seats in the elections, making it the third largest party in the Knesset. Netanyahu’s Likud party received 30 seats, while the Zionist Union took 24.
US President Barack Obama slammed Netanyahu for his remarks, saying they were “contrary to what is the best of Israel’s traditions,” and that it “erodes the name of democracy in the country.”
Netanyahu is also expected to meet President Reuven Rivlin next week in order to request a two-week extension to the deadline for presenting his coalition.