Joint Arab List chief slams Trump for ‘disloyalty’ remark; other party heads mum

Ayman Odeh says he doesn’t know whether US president’s ‘anti-Semitic comments’ or Netanyahu’s silence is more ‘repugnant’

Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh speaks at a campaign launch event in Tel Aviv on August 20, 2019. (Courtesy)
Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh speaks at a campaign launch event in Tel Aviv on August 20, 2019. (Courtesy)

The head of a predominantly Arab Israeli political party on Wednesday became the first party leader in Israel to condemn Donald Trump after the US president accused Jews who support Democrats of “great disloyalty.”

“I don’t know what is more repugnant, the anti-Semitic statement of US President Donald Trump or the hypocritical silence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh told The Times of Israel’s Hebrew site Zman Yisrael in a phone interview.

Trump’s characterization was roundly condemned by US Jewish groups that accused the US president of employing a dangerous anti-Semitic trope, but faced little backlash in Israel.

In addition to the premier who heads the Likud party, the leaders of Blue and White, Yisrael Beytenu, United Torah Judaism, Shas, Labor and the Democratic Camp have not responded to The Times of Israel’s request for comment on the matter. The Foreign Ministry and the Jewish Agency for Israel similarly did not respond.

Yamina chairwoman Ayelet Shaked was asked about Trump’s comments at a press conference on Wednesday, but she too refrained from responding directly, saying only that it would be inappropriate for her to wade into an internal American political debate.

On Tuesday, Trump lashed out at Democrats over what he claimed was their lack of support for Israel, suggesting that American Jews who intend to vote for his rival party in the 2020 elections would be displaying “great disloyalty.

“I think any Jewish people who would vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty,” Trump said during an Oval Office meeting with President Klaus Iohannis of Romania.

Trump was commenting on the uproar in Washington over Israel’s barring of Democratic congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from entering the country due to their support for boycotting Israel.

Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar was one of only several lawmakers who weighed in on the matter.

“We must be careful to maintain support for Israel both in the political system and among the American public,” he told Army Radio, appearing to offer a tepid censure of the US president.

Left-wing MKs Tamar Zandberg (Democratic Camp) and Ofer Cassif (Joint List) were far more forceful in their respective statements against Trump.

“Placing doubt in the ‘loyalty’ of minorities echoes the anti-Semitism that Jews have experienced for generations,” said Zandberg. “Instead of the Israeli prime minister being the first to demand an apology, Netanyahu continues to favor his alliance with Trump.”

“While Trump incited anti-Semitism, Netanyahu was silent. That same Netanyahu also hosted the president of the Philippines, who compared himself to Hitler,” said Cassif, referencing a 2016 remark made by Rodrigo Duterte in which he likened himself to the Nazi leader.

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