Responding to controversial comments by Joint List head Ayman Odeh, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked on Monday rejected any possibility that the wobbling coalition could partner with Odeh’s party.
Odeh said a day earlier that Arab Israelis serving in the security forces in East Jerusalem and the West Bank were “humiliating” their own people and called on them to throw down their weapons and quit, as well as saying his ultimate goal was to see the Palestinian flag flying over Jerusalem.
“Ayman Odeh incites against the State of Israel and its institutions. We won’t make agreements with him. His place is outside Israel’s Knesset,” Shaked tweeted.
Odeh’s remarks specifically referred to Arabs serving in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which have seen high tensions in recent weeks, not those serving as police inside the pre-1967 borders.
Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan of the Meretz party also said Odeh’s comments meant the Joint List would not be able to join the government.
“There is or has been an opportunity here to expand the Arab representation in the government, but what he said closes the door on the matter,” Golan said.
The comments by Shaked and Golan referred to speculation that the government could rely on Odeh’s party for support after having lost its majority in the Knesset last week with the defection of Yamina MK Idit Silman. Shaked is one of a number of Yamina lawmakers also rumored to be considering quitting.
With Silman exiting the coalition but not the Knesset, Bennett’s government holds just 60 of 120 seats. The path forward for the coalition and the Knesset are not immediately clear, with a new election seen as the most likely outcome.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party said Saturday, before Odeh’s comments, that “despite rumors, the Joint List will not be part of the coalition or government.” On the other hand, Odeh has also refused to commit to joining any possible vote of no-confidence to bring down the government if it means helping opposition leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu.
The outcry came after Odeh, in a Ramadan video posted from the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday, said it was a “humiliation” for Arab Israelis to serve in the security forces.
“Recently, I have met with many groups from occupied Arab Jerusalem. Young Palestinians with Israeli citizenship have told me that they are being harmed and humiliated. It is important for me to tell you from here, the Damascus Gate, that it is a humiliation for one of our sons to join the security forces,” Odeh said in a video posted to his Facebook page.
Damascus Gate has been the scene of near-daily clashes between Palestinians and the Israel Police since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“Our historical position is that we will stand with our people to end the murderous occupation so that the state of Palestine will be established and Palestinian flags will be hoisted on the walls of Jerusalem,” he said.
Odeh said Arab Israelis who join the Israeli security forces were “humiliating our people, humiliating our families and humiliating everyone who comes to pray in the Al-Aqsa Mosque.” He called on those who had already joined to “throw the weapons in their faces.”
His comments sparked a reported request by police to the attorney general for an opinion as to whether they warranted an investigation for suspected incitement to violence.
Odeh’s comments came as Israel is facing a deadly wave of terror attacks.
Among those killed was Arab Israeli officer Amir Khoury, who was hailed as a “hero of Israel” after he died in a firefight stopping the terrorist who carried a shooting attack in Bnei Brak.
Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, who is in charge of policing, on Monday slammed the “outrageous, dangerous and irresponsible statement” by the Joint List lawmaker.
“The service of Arab Israelis in the police is a symbol of coexistence and integration. The late Amir Khoury is an Israeli hero. He was an Arab Israeli. Amir is a symbol of coexistence and integration,” Bar-Lev said.
“Police officers from Arab society are an important part of the police in the fight against crime and terrorism,” he said.
On Sunday, several MKs in the opposition Likud party called for Odeh to be investigated.
“Ayman Odeh’s call for Muslim police officers to throw down their weapons, at a time when Israel is in the midst of a battle against terror from within and without, is serious incitement that could lead to violence against the officers and harm to the security of the nation,” tweeted former finance minister Israel Katz. “Odeh’s place is not in the Knesset but in jail.”
Likud former police minister Amir Ohana said that “in a just world this man would be arrested tonight and tried quickly.”