A far-right lawmaker called Friday for the head of the predominantly Arab Joint List party to be expelled from the Knesset for attending a press conference in which a leader of the Hamas terror group spoke.
MK Ayman Odeh has defended his attendance at Thursday’s press conference in Ramallah, during which rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas announced they were teaming up to thwart US President Donald Trump’s peace proposal and Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank.
In a letter to Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, Yamina MK Bezalel Smotrich said Odeh should be booted from the Knesset under 2016 legislation enabling lawmakers to expel a fellow MK for supporting armed struggle against Israel or racist incitement.
“Ayman Odeh’s linking up with Hamas’s violent struggle against the State of Israel doesn’t allow him to continue to serve as a Knesset member for one more day. I’ve appealed to all Knesset members to join the process for his removal,” Smotrich wrote on Twitter.
Odeh later fired back at Smotrich.
“In Israel racists like him hate Arabs. In the US and Europe they also hate Jews and Black people. A small politician full of hate who is desperate to make a bizarre headline,” Odeh was quoted saying by Channel 12 news.
Smotrich’s call to expel Odeh from the Knesset came after the Joint List chief took flak from both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and leaders of the opposition Yesh Atid-Telem faction for attending the press conference.
“This is a new low for Ayman Odeh, who participated today in a conference with Hamas members who have called for the murder of Israelis,” Likud said in a statement.
Likud MK Keti Shitrit said Odeh should be barred from the Knesset for 14 days, citing the requirement for people coming from Palestinian Authority-controlled areas of the West Bank to self-quarantine for two weeks.
The press conference marked a rare show of unity between PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah and Hamas, which have been at loggerheads since the latter expelled the Palestinian Authority from the Gaza Strip in 2007 in a near civil war. The takeover dissolved the Hamas-Fatah unity government, and subsequent attempts to reconcile the two have borne little fruit.
“We are announcing today an agreement to topple the ‘Deal of the Century’… there will be popular resistance in which everyone participates,” senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub said during the press conference, also addressed by Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri by video-link from Beirut. “We will put in place all necessary measures to ensure national unity” in efforts against annexation… “Today, we want to speak in a single voice.”
During the press conference, both Arouri and Rajoub hailed Odeh as a “brother” in their statements and expressed their support for Palestinians living inside Israel.
“I’m taking part in the conference in Ramallah to support Palestinian reconciliation moves. Reconciliation between the factions is a necessary step in combating annexation, ending the occupation and achieving a just peace,” Odeh said in a statement.
Arouri, who directs the West Bank division of the Gaza-based terror group, affirmed at the conference that Hamas and Fatah would set aside their differences in an effort to unite their efforts against annexation. “We must stand together, again and again, loyally and truthfully, amidst the ranks of our people, to resist and thwart this project,” he said.
Arouri has directed numerous terrorist attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians, including the 2014 murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank. In 2018, the US State Department issued a $5 million bounty for his capture.
AFP contributed to this report.