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Joint List chief says party won’t be a ‘lifeline’ for Bennett’s coalition

Joint List party chairman MK Ayman Odeh attends an Internal Security Committee meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on December 13, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Joint List party chairman MK Ayman Odeh attends an Internal Security Committee meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on December 13, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Joint List party chief Ayman Odeh says that the opposition Arab parties “will not be a lifeline” for Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, as the razor-thin coalition weathers its most severe crisis since its establishment last June.

“We are apparently heading for elections,” Joint List party chief Ayman Odeh tells the Haaretz daily.

The coalition was thrown into turmoil this morning after Knesset whip Idit Silman announced her intention to join the opposition. The current Israeli government now has only 60 backers, leaving it without a simple majority to pass legislation.

Odeh appears to rule out joining the coalition in order to preserve the frail and fractious government that replaced former premier Benjamin Netanyahu.

“This is a bad government, one we cannot be a part of. And another important issue needs to be taken into account: Bennett, [Justice Minister Ayelet] Shaked, and others will not agree for us to support such a government,” Odeh says.

The Joint List party chief does not explicitly rule out supporting the coalition from outside, however.

In the 1990s, ultra-Orthodox parties withdrew from the government of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, causing a coalition crisis.

The Arab parties supported Rabin’s coalition from without in the hopes that he could reach a comprehensive peace deal with the Palestinians.

But Arab Israeli lawmakers are far less likely to support Bennett, a right-winger who rejects the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Many right-wing coalition lawmakers would also likely reject support from the Joint List, which they see as a red line.

The Joint List is composed of three factions: Odeh’s Communist Arab-Jewish Hadash party, the Palestinian nationalist Balad party and Ta’al, led by Ahmad Tibi.

Balad party chief Sami Abou Shehadah, widely seen as the most radical lawmaker in the group, also tells Nazareth-based Radio al-Shams that the party “will not provide a safety net for either Bennett or Netanyahu.”

But Abou Shehadeh also says that the party will meet in the coming days to discuss “all the options available to us.

Question marks still hover over how Ta’al’s two parliamentarians, Ahmad Tibi and Osama Saadi, will respond. Both are widely respected lawmakers and have voiced a willingness to work with the coalition in the past.

Ta’al party officials could not be reached for comment.

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