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Mansour Abbas slams Joint List’s Odeh: ‘Their politics don’t have a purpose’

After rival Arab politician urges Israeli Arab cops and soldiers beyond Green Line to throw down weapons, Ra’am chief accuses him of only seeking to disrupt the government

Tobias (Toby) Siegal is a breaking news editor and contributor to The Times of Israel.

Leader of the Ra'am party Mansour Abbas, left, at the president's residence in Jerusalem, April 5, 2021; Leader of the Joint List party Ayman Odeh, right, gesture as he speaks during a conference in Jerusalem, March 7, 2021. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP, File); (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
Leader of the Ra'am party Mansour Abbas, left, at the president's residence in Jerusalem, April 5, 2021; Leader of the Joint List party Ayman Odeh, right, gesture as he speaks during a conference in Jerusalem, March 7, 2021. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP, File); (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

The head of the coalition’s Ra’am party on Monday slammed the head of the opposition Joint List Ayman Odeh for calling on Arab Israeli policemen and other members of security forces operating beyond the Green Line to throw away their weapons rather than participate in “occupation.”

Speaking to the Ynet news site, Mansour Abbas said Odeh’s controversial remarks were made due to political considerations in light of the political turmoil caused by last week’s defection of Yamina MK Idit Silman from the coalition.

Shoved into a 60-60 stalemate with the opposition, some members of the coalition have signaled interest in potential cooperation with the majority-Arab Joint List party as a possible lifeline.

According to Abbas, Odeh realized that his party could be asked to tip the political scales and preferred to make outrageous comments that would prevent a potential partnership.

“They always seek to dissolve the Knesset and dismantle the government,” Abbas said of the Joint List. “Their politics don’t have a purpose.”

“There are forces trying to crush us and our shared life,” Abbas was also cited by Channel 12 as saying. “We must be a stronger force than them. The entire Arab sector has come out against the recent wave of terror attacks, even people who hold opposite views than I do,” he added.

Odeh said Sunday evening that Arab Israelis serving in the Israeli security forces in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including in the police, were “humiliating” their own people and called on them to quit, as well as saying his ultimate goal was to see the Palestinian flag flying over Jerusalem.

Joint List party leader Ayman Odeh speaks in a video in which he calls on Arab Israeli police officers to quit, saying they ‘humiliate’ their people on April 10, 2022 (Screen capture/Facebook)

His comments, posted on Facebook in a video filmed at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City — a flashpoint area for violence in recent weeks — and during the Muslim high-tension holy month of Ramadan, sparked outrage across the Israeli political spectrum.

Earlier on Monday, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked of Yamina accused Odeh of incitement and rejected any possibility that the wobbling coalition could partner with his party.

“Ayman Odeh incites against the State of Israel and its institutions. We won’t make agreements with him. His place is outside Israel’s Knesset,” she tweeted.

Following Odeh’s comments, the Yamina party issued a statement that read: “Despite rumors, the Joint List will not be part of the coalition or government.”

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked holds a press conference at Ben Gurion Airport on March 13, 2022. (Roy Alima/ Flash90)

Odeh was also attacked by left-wing coalition politicians, with Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan of the Meretz party saying Odeh’s comments “mainly hurt the public he is trying to represent.”

Golan said that “Odeh hasn’t learned anything from [Ra’am’s] Abbas. The first thing you need to do is embrace the partnership and become a partner in the coalition, to create an opposite momentum to the continued neglect [of the Arab community] led by right-wing governments, to strengthen the integration of Arab Israeli citizens within Israeli society.”

He continued: “Apparently, Odeh is determined not to support this government, not from outside or from inside. He rejects it completely, which is a form of political blindness and blindness toward the public.”

The left-wing lawmaker called Odeh’s remarks “a grave mistake,” adding that any opportunity that might have existed to expand the Arab representation in the government died out with Odeh’s remarks.

Deputy Economy and Industry Minister Yair Golan, a legislator with the dovish Meretz party, during an interview with The Associated Press in his office at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on January 17, 2022. (Tsafrir Abayov/AP)

The political rivalry between Odeh and Abbas has become more evident since Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition was sworn in last year with Abbas’s Ra’am party a member of the coalition.

Odeh has called Bennett’s coalition “a bad government,” questioning its commitment to helping the Arab community. Speaking to Army Radio in November, Odeh said he was “ashamed” of many of Abbas’s positions.

Carrie Keller-Lynn contributed to this report.

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