New Hope candidate backtracks after saying party won’t join coalition with Labor

Former NY consul Dayan now says his party won’t partner with left-wing slate if candidate Ibtisam Mara’ana’s statement dismissing Holocaust memorial siren reflects Labor’s views

Dani Dayan speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Jerusalem, on July 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
Dani Dayan speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Jerusalem, on July 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Dani Dayan, running in the upcoming elections with the right-wing New Hope party, on Thursday backtracked after saying his party would not serve alongside the center-left Labor in a future coalition over its party member’s ignoring of the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day siren.

The controversy stemmed from a 2012 social media post by Ibtisam Mara’ana, who is seventh on the left-wing party’s slate after recent primaries. Mara’ana wrote that she had continued to drive as the annual memorial siren for the victims of the Holocaust sounded. The majority of drivers in Israel stop during the siren and stand by their vehicle.

“I did not stand at the siren, I was driving while the whole country was almost silent. I decided to keep going and there were two wonderful minutes during the siren. The road was empty, I kept thinking about what really interested me at that moment,” Mara’ana wrote.

Dayan, former consul-general to New York and former chairman of the Yesha Council settlement umbrella group, told i24news in an English-language interview that if Mara’ana entered the Knesset, New Hope would not serve alongside Labor in a coalition government.

Director Ibtisam Mara’ana-Menuhin at a screening of a 2017 documentary film that she produced (courtesy)

However, he quickly walked back the comments, telling Channel 12 news: “I meant to say that if Mara’ana’s positions represent the Labor party we will not sit with them — not that if she is elected we will not sit with them.”

In a separate post in 2013, Mara’ana wrote: “How did the Holocaust affect the sex lives of Holocaust survivors?”

Labor head Merav Michaeli said on Thursday that although Mara’ana’s words were hurtful to many, the trauma of survivors was worthy of research.

“True, the headline that came from the words of Ibtisam Mara’ana sounds bad. It hurt me to read these things, but the question of the impact of the Holocaust and the trauma of the survivors is worthy of debate and is being researched in many places. Mara’ana will soon clarify the statement,” Michaeli told Army Radio.

People stand still on the Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv as a two-minute siren is sounded across Israel to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 12, 2018 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Mara’ana, a documentary filmmaker, hails from a northern Arab Israeli town, but identifies as Palestinian and is married to a Jewish Israeli.

Read more: On bold TV show, Palestinian-Israeli director takes apart her society’s taboos

Earlier in the week, New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar said his party would not have Itamar Ben Gvir, a disciple of the late extremist rabbi Meir Kahane, in a coalition he heads.

Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit party has joined forces with the Religious Zionism party for the elections as part of a deal engineered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The far-right party supports encouraging emigration of non-Jews from Israel and expelling Palestinians and Arab Israelis who refuse to declare loyalty to Israel and accept diminished status in an expanded Jewish state, whose sovereignty would extend throughout the West Bank.

Ben Gvir is in the third slot on the merged Religious Zionism party slate, which most polls in the last few days have shown clearing the Knesset threshold and clinching 4-5 seats in the March 23 elections. To enable to deal to go ahead, Netanyahu gave the 28th spot on the Likud slate to a candidate from Religious Zionism.

Netanyahu said Wednesday night that Ben Gvir will not be a minister in the next cabinet, but will be a member of his governing coalition if he wins.

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