Joint List chief: Israel’s occupation, not Iran, is region’s main problem

Explaining his Arab-majority Knesset faction’s vote against Gulf deals, Ayman Odeh says pacts based on flawed, twisted logic; ‘We cannot accept this, either morally or nationally’

Joint List leader Ayman Odeh speaks to reporters outside his home in Haifa, on March 3, 2020. (Flash90)
Joint List leader Ayman Odeh speaks to reporters outside his home in Haifa, on March 3, 2020. (Flash90)

MK Ayman Odeh, head of the majority-Arab Joint List Knesset faction, said Israel’s normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain were based on a “twisted logic,” and insisted that the Palestinian issue, rather than Iran, should be the region’s main concern.

On Thursday the Joint List was the sole Knesset faction to vote against ratifying the peace deals.

Asked during a subsequent interview with Lebanese television station al-Mayadeen, affiliated with the Hezbollah terror group, why 13 of the Joint List’s 15 lawmakers had voted to strike down the agreements, Odeh said the Abraham Accords “are based on a flawed assumption: that the fundamental issue in the East is the Iranian question, and not the Palestinian question, and that there must be an alliance” to defeat it.

But, he said, “practically, the Israeli occupation is the fundamental problem. All this talk of ‘combating Iran,’ we cannot accept this twisted logic, either morally or nationally.”

The Knesset overwhelmingly approved the accords, with 80 lawmakers voting in favor. They will now return to the desks of ministers, who will vote on them once more. Once ratified, the agreement enters into force for Israel, but full diplomatic relations between the two countries will not be established until the UAE ratifies the agreement as well.

Odeh himself was not present at the vote, as he was in isolation after contracting the coronavirus.

The Knesset ahead of a vote on October 15, 2020. (Gideon Sharon/Knesset)

The Knesset debate was at times stormy, with many opposition officials commending the deal itself but using their time to slam Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government on other fronts.

Netanyahu, for his part, hailed the agreement as a paradigm shift in the Arab world’s approach to Israel, while touting his role in bringing many Sunni nations closer to Israel due to his vociferous public opposition to Iran.

He also said it was “incredible that here in the Israeli Knesset there are some who would vote against peace,” apparently addressing members of the Joint List.

“Those who are ostensibly in the peace camp oppose peace. You do not want real peace, you want the semblance of peace in which Israel gradually disappears.”

Aaron Boxerman and Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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