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Likud MK seeks to curb opposition chief’s powers in case it’s Joint List’s Odeh

Shlomo Karai says it’s ‘dangerous’ that Arab-majority party, which won 3rd highest number of seats, could receive security updates from PM if unity government formed

Joint List chair MK Ayman Odeh speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset on November 18, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Joint List chair MK Ayman Odeh speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset on November 18, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

A Likud MK announced Friday he would put forward a bill to limit the powers of the opposition leader on the grounds that it could end up being the head of the Arab-majority Joint List, Ayman Odeh, who he billed a “terror supporter.”

Likud’s Shlomo Karai said he would seek the cancellation of the political and security updates afforded to the head of opposition, as well as the Shin Bet security detail.

The bill states that should there be no single opposition party constituting at least 15 percent of the 120 Knesset seats, there would be an automatic rotation between other opposition parties for the role of head, which will have reduced powers.

“The chance that the leader of the Joint List of terror supporters will be head of the opposition, with monthly security updates from the prime minister, is too dangerous,” Karai claimed.

Likud MK Shlomo Karai at the Knesset plenum, ahead of the opening Knesset session of the new government on April 29, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

The Joint List won a record 15 seats in the last Knesset elections and is the third largest party in parliament.

The slate is an alliance of parties representing both Muslim and Christian Arab Israelis, as well as some Jewish leftists. It has been broadly painted by the Israeli right as a party of “terror supporters” for its members’ backing of Palestinians and sometimes failure to condemn terror attacks and those against Israeli security forces in the Palestinian territories.

The proposal came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday spoke with Blue and White leader Benny Gantz about forming an emergency government to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

The two appeared to be at odds with including the Joint List in such a government. Netanyahu said it cannot have “terror supporters” and Gantz called for such a coalition to include elements from all political sides.

The chances for such a government, which would end over a year of political deadlock following last week’s third round of indecisive elections, appeared dampened on Friday as Blue and White announced plans to replace the Knesset speaker next week.

Likud lambasted the move to replace Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, a member of the party, accusing its rivals in a statement of playing “small politics” at a time of crisis.

A composite image of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Benny Gantz at polling stations in Jerusalem and Rosh Haayin, respectively, during the Knesset Elections on March 2, 2020. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL, AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

There have been 164 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in Israel, which on Thursday announced the closure of schools and universities as part of efforts to contain the virus.

Nearly 40,000 are currently in home quarantines, according to the Health Ministry. Of those with the virus, two are still in serious condition, 10 are in moderate condition, and four have recovered.

Netanyahu is expected on Saturday to announce further, more stringent measures Israel may take to halt the coronavirus outbreak.

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