With the results of Tuesday’s elections nearly final, the third largest party in the Knesset is the United Arab List – and chairman Ayman Odeh said Wednesday that he had already spoken with Blue and White’s Benny Gantz the night before, and that a meeting had been set up for Wednesday night. “We haven’t set anything yet,” Odeh told reporters outside his Haifa home. “Our objective is clear: We want to replace the Netanyahu government.”
With that, Odeh said, “we are not in anyone’s pocket. We need to discuss many things. We have gone through a decade of incitement, of distancing from the concepts of peace. There is the ‘big inciter,’” a reference to Netanyahu, “and lesser ones. Abu Yair,” Odeh said, referring to Netanyahu and his son, “there is a price for incitement. The main thing for us is that we prevented the establishment of another rightwing government.”
With both Gantz and Netanyahu implying in their remarks early Wednesday that a national unity government may be on the agenda, Odeh said that participating in such a government did not interest him. “What interests us is that we are the third largest party in the Knesset,” and if the Likud and Blue and White join forces in the government, the UAL would be the biggest opposition party – making Odeh a top candidate for opposition leader. “That would be an interesting job, a first for Israeli Arabs. It has a great deal of influence,” said Odeh. Under Israeli law, the chairman of the opposition is privy to some sensitive security information.
In a radio interview, UAL MK Ahmed Tibi attributed the success of the party to the fact that “the Arabs streamed to the polls,” using a term Netanyahu had used to prompt rightwing voters to get out and vote. “Netanyahu sounded an alarm at the entrance of every Arab town, and it was a real wake-up call. This only happened over the last two weeks, before that our campaign was moribund,” he added.