The head of the Joint Arab List, Ayman Odeh, was scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday afternoon at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. According to Odeh, Netanyahu initiated the meeting. Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman called on Netanyahu to cancel the meeting, saying it “legitimizes the fifth column operating in the Knesset.”
The meeting was originally scheduled for April 27, but was postponed because of the strike and rally in Tel Aviv that week to protest demolition in Arab communities.
Odeh, who heads the Hadash party, requested that the leaders of the three other parties of the Joint Arab List — Jamal Zahalka (Balad), Masud Ganaim (Ra’am) and Ahmad Tibi (Ta’al) — join him, but the PMO said this was to be a one-on-one meeting, like those between Netanyahu and other party heads.
After consulting with the leaders, it was decided to agree to Netanyahu’s terms. “This is a business meeting, not a public relations stunt or a meeting for the protocol,” Odeh said. “I have a great responsibility as the representative of a national minority and a very broad public that lives with institutionalized discrimination.” He promised to bring up the Arab community’s problems and its “just demands, such as the equitable allocation of funds by government ministries, giving Israel’s Arab community greater access to education, allocating more funds to the Arab local governments and introducing zoning reforms in order to solve the painful problem of home demolitions.”
Continuing, Odeh said that “Israel’s government cannot continue with its policies of perpetuating the occupation and refusing to establish an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, based on all the relevant UN resolutions. Striving for peace must be a sincere effort because the Palestinian people is entitled to liberty and to a place under the sun. A just peace is also in the interest of the citizens of Israel — this will help them attain equality and social justice.”
On Thursday morning, Lieberman issued an announcement calling on the prime minister to cancel, saying: “Netanyahu’s meeting with Odeh, one of the fiercest opponents to Israel being the state of the Jewish people, confers legitimacy on those seeking to destroy Israel from within, allowing a fifth column to operate inside the Knesset.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu, who on election day warned of Arabs streaming to polling stations — a justified warning since hostile elements, headed by the Palestinian Authority, were using their official media to encourage Israeli Arabs to go and vote for the Joint Arab List — the same Netanyahu now invites the same Odeh that he had warned against. One shouldn’t mistake Odeh. The difference between him and Azmi Bishara ( a former MK who fled Israel after being suspected of links with Hezbollah) is the same as the difference between Iran’s former president Ahmadinejad and its current president Rohani. Odeh too is someone who operates with sophistication, with a smiling face that hides the same wishes Bishara has, of bringing Israel to its end,” Lieberman said.
“Odeh has refused to dissociate himself from the words of the Joint Arab List’s propaganda chief who compared Zionism to ISIS and refused to define Hamas as a terrorist organization, legitimizing and backing its actions. Odeh also didn’t condemn the words of MK Haneen Zoabi who legitimized the murder of the three teens in the Etzion bloc. This is a man who represents a Knesset party that supports terror. The prime minister of a government that defines itself as a nationalist government sees fit to meet him. Woe to such nationalism.”