Head of Arab faction mulls backing Gantz to form next coalition
Ayman Odeh says his party could use unprecedented success in Tuesday elections as opportunity to draw world attention to what he says are injustices done to Israeli Arabs; Likud MK: Push for cameras at polling stations in minority areas hurt us
Gantz has already reached out to him, Odeh said, adding that “on Wednesday afternoon, we will decide which path to take.”
The Joint List was projected Tuesday night to win an unprecedented 15 seats in the next Knesset, potentially making it the third-largest party. And while those projections appeared to be optimistic Wednesday, the faction will still win enough seats to have an influential voice in deciding who Rivlin invites to form the next government.
As the final election results trickled in Wednesday, they appeared to support the exit polls that predicted neither right-wing Likud nor centrist Blue and White would be able to muster enough Knesset seats to form a majority bloc in the 120-seat Knesset.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, whose predicted nine Knesset seats could put either bloc over the top, has repeatedly called for a unity government and said Wednesday that this remained his preferred choice. Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, however, has said he will not join a government with Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party due to the prime minister's various criminal investigations.
"We will not join a unity government," Odeh told reporters outside his home in Haifa on Wednesday, pledging to remain in the opposition.
"We are the real opposition," he said. "The leader of the opposition has an important pulpit from which to inform the world" about the controversial Nation-State Law passed by Netanyahu's outgoing government.
The Arab parties blasted the law, which defines Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people and as rescinded Arabic’s status as an official language, as degrading.
"We have for the past decade seen incitement and de-legitimization of the Arab citizens and have watched peace become an increasingly distant hope," Odeh said.
Odeh claimed Arab voters who showed up at the polls had succeeded in blocking an extreme-right government.
"There is the big racist," he said eluding to the prime minister, who has frequently used anti-Arab rhetoric in his campaigns. “And there are the smaller ones, but everyone is affected by Netanyahu's incitement."
Netanyahu's Likud party alleged throughout the campaign that there had been widespread voter fraud in the Arab towns during the April elections.
Likud attempted to rush through legislation that would have allowed their activists to take cameras into polling stations, which was criticized as an attempted act of voter suppression in a minrotiy community.
The hastliy drawn bill never made it past its first reading in the Knesset, but close Netanyahu ally and Likud MK Miki Zohar said Wednesday that this move may have had the undesired effect of encouraging larger turnout among Arab voters.