Ali Salam, the mayor of the predominantly Arab city of Nazareth, announced plans on Thursday to found a joint Arab-Jewish party to compete in the next elections.
In an interview with the Knesset television channel, Salam called upon the parties that make up the predominantly-Arab Joint List to join him, but notably excluded Hadash, the largest and most established of the factions in the party, led by Ayman Odeh, who heads the Joint List.
Salam, in a personal attack on Odeh, said that he was “not invited” to join his new political party, and sarcastically said that: “Odeh is too great for us, we are not at his level.”
Rumors began to circulate as to the Jewish politicians who could join the slate.
Reports in October had named former three-time mayor of Haifa, Yona Yahav, as a possible partner for Salam.
Asked about this at the time, Yahav said that plans for a new Arab-Jewish party were “currently a secret. When it becomes more real we will let you know.”
Yahav went on to say that “it is too early to ruin things,” before claiming that he was the “most popular Jew in the Arab community.”
The animosity between Salam and Odeh was no surprise; in 2015, while Odeh was preparing for an interview with a news crew in Nazareth, Salam rolled up in his vehicle and began to shout insults at him.
“Ayman, go busy yourself elsewhere, you’ve ruined the city for us!” Salam shouted in Arabic. “Get out of here, enough with the interviews. You ruined the city for us.”
Salem blamed Odeh, among other Arab politicians, for supporting violent Palestinian protests and told Army Radio at the time that he believed that Israel’s Arab leadership must make their voices heard in an appropriate manner, that would not be detrimental to the Palestinians.
In 2018 Salam announced he was under criminal investigation. Police at the time detained a number of Nazareth officials for questioning over suspicions of theft, accepting illegal gifts in aggravated circumstances, fraud, and breach of trust.
Salam claimed then that police suspicions against him were the result of unnamed opponents’ attempts to discredit him.
“I was summoned for questioning and then immediately returned to work,” Salam said according to the Ynet news site, adding that some people were “determined to damage our work in the city.”
On Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there was “no doubt” elections are coming, and blamed his coalition partners. Two ministers from Blue and White confirmed the party was considering supporting a no-confidence motion next week that would topple the government.