Odeh: Gantz needs us for coalition, I’d be a better culture minister than Regev
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Odeh: Gantz needs us for coalition, I’d be a better culture minister than Regev

Joint List party chief says Blue and White leader’s views are far from his own so he cannot serve in government; adds that unlike Regev, he has read Chekhov

Joint List chair MK Ayman Odeh speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset on November 18, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Joint List chair MK Ayman Odeh speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset on November 18, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Joint List leader Ayman Odeh on Saturday said that Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz will not be able to form a coalition without the predominantly Arab alliance, but added that he would want the job of culture minister if there were to be a government that was acceptable to him.

“I will not be a minister in the Israeli government — Benny Gantz is far from my views,” Odeh said. “But if there were to be the kind of government I would want, I would be culture minister.

“I would be better than [Miri] Regev, for sure,” he said, referring to the current culture minister of the Likud party. “Culture is a deep, strategic thing and constructive thing.”

“Of course, I’ve read Chekhov. The global culture and these values ​​are close to me,” Odeh told the event in Beersheba.

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev broadcasts from the Likud mobile TV station as part of the party’s elections campaign, in Meron, Northern Israel, August 22, 2019. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Culture Minister Miri Regev gave an interview in 2015 in which she declared she had never read any of the works of the Russian playwright. The Likud minister has in the past clashed with Odeh over anti-Arab rhetoric.

Without support from the Joint List, Gantz is unlikely to have enough MKs behind him to get the nod after the coming March 2 vote. He is hoping to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who polls have shown continues to lead a right-wing and religious bloc of MKs that is larger than the opposition bloc Gantz can muster without the Joint List.

While the Joint List in the wake of the previous elections in September recommended to President Reuven Rivlin that Gantz negotiate a coalition, Odeh said Tuesday “there is no way that we will support him again or recommend him if he doesn’t come out against this [the Trump plan].”

Odeh has also ruled out joining any government that includes hawkish MK Avigdor Liberman and his Yisrael Beytenu party.

Blue and White party chairman MK Benny Gantz, right and Yisrael Beytenu party chairman Avigdor Liberman give a joint statement to the media after a meeting for coalition negotiations at the Kfar Maccabia Hotel in Ramat Gan, on November 14, 2019. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Gantz on Tuesday declared that he would implement the Trump administration’s peace plan if elected in the upcoming national vote, though he came out against provisions of the White House deal that suggested Arab Israeli towns could become part of a future Palestinian state.

Touring Arab Israeli communities in the country’s north, Gantz rejected the prospect of partnering with the alliance of four majority-Arab parties in any future government.

Netanyahu responded Tuesday, saying in a Twitter post that Gantz “was misleading the public. Without the support in the Knesset of [MKs] Ahmad Tibi, Ayman Odeh and the Joint List, Gantz won’t be able to form a government. Blue and White voters are switching to Likud because they know that only Likud under my leadership can form a strong and safe right-wing government.”

Gantz’s comments came after Odeh said on Tuesday that he will not back Gantz as prime minister unless he made a clear statement publicly ruling out elements of the US peace plan, namely a transfer of some Arab Israeli towns to a Palestinian state and the extension of Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and other areas of the West Bank.

Hours later, Gantz said he opposed the former but did not comment on the latter.

“I want to take this issue off the table and state that no Israeli, Jewish or Arab citizen will be coerced into another country,” Gantz said.

Gantz stressed that he “intend[s] to implement President Trump’s peace plan, in coordination with all the elements in the region, and see it as a significant milestone.”

After US President Donald Trump unveiled his plan at the White House on January 28, Gantz said he would bring the proposal for approval by the Knesset if he is elected prime minister. Netanyahu also embraced the proposal, while the Palestinians rejected it entirely.

US President Donald Trump participates in an expanded bilateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, January 27, 2020, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)

The plan allows for Israel to extend sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and its settlements in the West Bank — areas the Palestinians want for a future state. Another controversial proposal is redrawing Israel’s borders to see multiple Arab towns in the so-called Triangle area included in the future Palestine.

Netanyahu has stated that Gantz could form a minority government “that relies on those who reject Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and glorify terrorists that murder our soldiers and citizens,” a claim that Gantz has rejected.

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