Confirming claims by the Likud and placing both Blue and White and Yisrael Beytenu in uncomfortable positions, United Arab List head Ayman Odeh said over the weekend that without his party’s support, Benny Gantz will not be able to form a government – and that he expects to take an active role in that government. At an election rally in Be’er Sheva, Odeh said that “unless there is a unity government, Benny Gantz can’t form a government without us. This election will net a record number of Knesset seats to represent Israeli Arabs.”
This is the first time Odeh has discussed the political standoff between right and left, until now leaving the matter to the Likud and Blue and White. Political analysts have gone on the assumption that the List would support a Gantz-led government from outside the coalition, voting to allow Gantz to establish a minority government and supporting bills that it approved of.
But at the rally, Odeh implied that he expected the List to be a full partner in the government – with himself as Culture Minister. “I will make a much better Culture Minister than Miri Regev,” he said.
UAL MK Ahmed Tibi said “we are aiming for 16 Knesset seats, which will be a firm and authentic representation of the Arab voting public, as well as a means of preventing Binyamin Netanyahu from establishing a far-right government. The incitement of the Likud against me and the party shows how worried he is from the growing strength of the List and the flow of Arabs to the polls. They are afraid.”
Weekend polls show that the logjam between right and left, and between the Likud and Blue and White, showed no signs of loosening. Typical of the polls was that in Maariv, which gave 56 seats to the right-wing bloc and 57 to the left – if the bloc includes the United Arab List, which at this point does not appear set to happen.
The poll shows Blue and White with a slight electoral lead, getting 34 seats in the Knesset if elections were held today, to the Likud’s 33. Shas would get 9 seats, and United Torah Jewry and Yamina 7 each in the Maariv poll. A Channel 13 poll showed Shas and UTJ getting 8 seats, with Yamina getting 9. On the left, most polls showed Labor-Meretz-Gesher getting 9 seats.
That leaves the United Arab List, with 14 seats, and Yisrael Beytenu, with 7, as the deciding factors. In order for Blue and White’s Benny Gantz to form a government, he would need both of those parties, or to convince one of the parties on the right to join him – an unlikely possibility, according to Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman, who said that the right-wing bloc was solid and would remain solidly behind Netanyahu.
On the other hand, Blue and White officials have in recent days said that they will not only not include the Arab party in a government he heads, but not even rely on the UAL’s votes from outside the coalition to form a minority government. On Friday, Avigdor Liberman reiterated that his party would not join a government that was supported by the List – whether inside or outside the coalition.