Rift Emerges in Arab Joint List

YERUSHALAYIM -
Former Joint Arab List MK Basel Ghattas seen at court proceedings in March. He was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison for smuggling cell phones to Palestinian security prisoners. (Herzl Yosef/Pool)

Tensions within the coalition of Arab parties comprising the Joint List have emerged in public as a Balad member posted a scathing attack on the coalition chairman, who comes from the Hadash party.

Just before former MK Basel Ghattas (Balad) entered Gilboa Prison on Tuesday to start a two-year sentence for smuggling cellphones to Arab security prisoners, he posted a scathing attack on Joint List leader Ayman Odeh (Hadash), denouncing him as a “submissive agent” of the Zionists.

The message was a continuation of an existing feud between the two. In December, Odeh

criticized Ghattas for the cellphone smuggling, saying that their struggle for Arab rights should be carried out by legal means.

Ghattas claimed that he smuggled the phones and SIM cards into Ketziot Prison for “humanitarian and moral reasons.”

Ghattas wrote: “I’m very worried about the continuation of the Joint List” in light of the “behavior” of Odeh.

He cited Odeh’s participation recently in a Peace Now-led demonstration. “We are the owners of the country and should be very strong in confronting the Zionist colonial project, not be a follower of Meretz and participate in a press conference with Zehava Gal-On…”

The hostility between Ghattas and Oded reflects the ideological differences between their respective parties, which they have tried to suppress since forming Joint List in 2015. The merger of Balad and Hadash was implemented in response to a Knesset decision to raise the threshhold for representation in the Knesset, which threatened to exclude their small parties if they remained separate.

Odeh’s office declined to comment on Ghattas’s article. However, a source in the Joint List who asked not to be identified said: “This won’t have any effect on the Joint List and its work. Ghattas didn’t help…he worked against the unity of the Joint List when he was an MK. He was always divisive.”