Odeh: Palestinian 'reconciliation' needed for two-state deal

Right-wing parties seethe as top Arab MK Odeh attends Fatah-Hamas conference

Likud calls Joint List leader’s presence at event, where Abbas’s party and Islamist terror group vowed unity and ‘popular resistance’ against annexation, a ‘new low’

Joint List party leader MK Ayman Odeh at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on February 5, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Joint List party leader MK Ayman Odeh at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on February 5, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Right-wing politicians on Thursday condemned Joint List leader Ayman Odeh for attending a press conference in Ramallah held by Fatah and the terrorist group Hamas that focused on Palestinian unity.

Odeh was spotted in the front row of the audience during the rare joint appearance by the senior Palestinian officials of the rival factions, which saw them pledge to join forces and coordinate “popular resistance” against Israel’s prospective plans to annex territory in the West Bank and the wider US peace proposal. Odeh said he backs initiatives to bridge the divides between the warring Palestinian groups who have been at odds for over a decade.

Hamas is avowedly committed to destroying Israel.

“I come to the conference to support the reconciliation efforts among the Palestinians. Reconciliation between the factions is an essential step in fighting annexation, ending the occupation, and reaching a just peace,” Odeh said. “Continued division only serves those who want the occupation to continue and establish apartheid. Anyone who supports a two-state solution must support [Palestinian] reconciliation.”

Senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub said at the news conference that the sides “will put in place all necessary measures to ensure national unity” in efforts against annexation.

“Today, we want to speak in a single voice,” Rajoub said.

Senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, attends by video conference a meeting with deputy Hamas chief Saleh Arouri (on screen from Beirut) discussing Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank, on July 2, 2020. (ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)

Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri, speaking by video-link from Beirut, branded Israel “the enemy” and warned the Jewish state against annexation. Arouri, who has a $5 million US bounty on his head for his role in orchestrating numerous acts of terrorist, described the conference as “an opportunity to start a new phase that will be a strategic service to our people in the most dangerous stages.”

Fatah, the party headed by Mahmoud Abbas which controls the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, and Islamist terror group Hamas that runs the Gaza Strip, have been plagued by divisions and enmity for more than a decade.

The attendance of Odeh, the senior Arab Israeli politician, drew immediate recriminations from legislators from the Israeli right, who suggested his association with a terrorist leader openly sworn to Israel’s destruction was beyond the pale.

“A new low for Ayman Odeh, who attended a conference today with Hamas members who called for the murder of Jews,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party said in a statement, adding that there was “no limit to the shame.”

“This is the man Yair Lapid and [Moshe] Ya’alon wanted to form a government with,” the Likud statement said in reference to its political rivals in the opposition. That statement neglected to mention that talks between the Joint List and the former iteration of the Blue and White party that included Lapid and Ya’alon were led by Benny Gantz, Netanyahu’s current coalition partner and the country’s defense minister.

Likud MK Shlomo Karai lodged a complaint against Odeh with the Knesset Ethics Committee.

Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman, the hawkish former defense minister who has in the past called the Arab politicians a “fifth column” and accused them of supporting terrorism, also railed against Odeh, while taking a potshot at Netanyahu.

“Ayman Odeh attended a virtual conference of Fatah and Hamas on the virtual annexation of Netanyahu. I hope that Ayman Odeh and his friends will soon become as virtual as the conference,” tweeted Liberman.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman holds a press conference in Neve Ilan, near Jerusalem, on March 11, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu had set July 1 as a starting date to begin annexation of portions of the West Bank under the Trump administration’s peace deal. No announcement was made as the date passed Wednesday, and talks between Israeli and US officials continue to debate the scope of the widely condemned move, if it happens at all.

The US plan, unveiled in January, calls for any annexations to come as part of a larger peace package, including negotiations on the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state across roughly 70 percent of the West Bank, with a link to Gaza.

Hamas, which has fought three wars with Israel and carried out countless attacks, has said the move would be tantamount to a “declaration of war” if it goes ahead.

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