Joint List leader Odeh: We’ll win 16 seats, prevent Netanyahu forming coalition

Head of mainly Arab party, which is rising in the polls, says he won’t back Gantz either unless Blue and White leader changes direction

Joint List leader Ayman Odeh arrives for a meeting with party members at the Knesset on September 22, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Joint List leader Ayman Odeh arrives for a meeting with party members at the Knesset on September 22, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Joint List leader Ayman Odeh, whose alliance of mainly Arab factions is polling at a record high 14-15 seats, said on Saturday night that he was expecting to win 16 seats — and that would be enough to prevent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from winning Monday’s elections.

In an interview on Channel 12, Odeh scoffed at efforts by Netanyahu in recent days to appeal to the Arab electorate, declaring that “no prime minister has incited more against us than Netanyahu.”

Among other charges, Odeh said Netanyahu had pushed for the inclusion in last month’s Trump peace plan of “population exchanges” — a reference to a clause providing for the possible redrawing of Israel’s borders to place Arab areas of northern Israel in a future Palestinian entity in the West Bank.

“All [Arab] local council heads will come out on Monday to help defeat Netanyahu,” he predicted.

Final surveys by Channels 12 and 13 on Friday night showed the Joint List winning 14 and 15 seats, respectively, up from 13 in last September’s elections. “We’ll get 16″ on Monday,” Oden predicted. “If we win 16 seats, Netanyahu won’t have a government.”

Odeh did not rule out recommending Blue and White leader Benny Gantz for prime minister, but said Gantz would have to “change direction” to regain the Joint List’s support. “Gantz has moved to the right” over the past month, he said.

If Gantz committed to bringing “peace and equality,” and made clear his opposition to the idea of unilateral annexation of West Bank areas, among other positions, the Joint List would back him, Odeh said. Most, but not all of the Joint List recommended Gantz as prime minister after September’s deadlocked elections.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, on October 23, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

In a separate interview with the Kan public broadcaster, Odeh also said his party would not allow the “racist” Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman to become a minister.

One of the scenarios available for Blue and White to form a government would be a minority coalition with Labor-Gesher-Meretz and Yisrael Beytenu, but it would require the outside support of the Joint List. Odeh’s comments appeared to throw a wrench into those plans.

“We will not make Liberman, the brains behind the ‘transfer’ idea, a minister,” Odeh said, referring to Liberman’s support for Arab towns in the so-called “triangle” being transferred to a future Palestinian state.

Odeh also claimed that the only difference between Netanyahu and Liberman was that the latter is better at evading corruption charges.

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