Blue and White’s Gantz says rejection of Arab coalition partner has zero to do with racism

Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List cried “racism” when Blue and White head Benny Gantz refused to consider the Arab party as a coalition partner.

By World Israel News Staff

After Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List, accused him of “racism,” Blue and White chief Benny Gantz pointed to a problem within the Arab parties – not all recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He made his comments during an interview on Israel’s “Meet the Press” on Saturday evening.

“We will sit only with people that recognize the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. It seems to me that there are elements in the Arab parties that have difficulty with this,” Gantz said on the weekly program on Israel’s Channel 12.

“We’re going to win in the elections to serve all the citizens of Israel. I’m going around in Arab society and learning its problems,” Gantz said. “I want to serve all the citizens in all their variety and to help with all they’re lacking – security, education, integration in industry, employment.”

On Thursday, Odeh told Israeli paper Yediot Ahronoth that he would consider sitting in a coalition with a center-left government if certain conditions were met. The suggestion was revolutionary as neither Arab parties nor Jewish parties in Israel have been willing to join together in the past, each for their own reasons.

Blue and White’s leaders swiftly rejected the suggestion.

Odeh, who appeared on the same Saturday evening broadcast of “Meet the Press” before Gantz, accused the Blue and White leader of “racism.” “Apparently he treats me as an Arab,” Odeh told the interviewer, Rina Mazliah.

“I come up with a real, concrete proposal,” Odeh said. “And I get a reply from the head of the biggest opposition party answering me that he’s not prepared to sit with Arabs. I submitted a serious proposal, with very clear terms, but I did not receive a serious answer from the other side.”

Mazliah pointed out that Odeh made his suggestion without consulting other members of his party, all of whom issued a statement rejecting the idea, saying they would never sit with a government of “occupation.”

In an earlier interview, another Blue and White leader, Yair Lapid, also clarified that the problem with sitting with the Joint List is not that they’re Arabs, but that there are elements within it that support terrorism.

One of the Joint List’s member parties is Balad. It rejects Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and advocates recasting it as a binational state, or “a state of all its citizens,” essentially erasing its Jewish character.

The party has had a checkered past, with several of its members outwardly supporting terror. Most recently, Balad member Basel Ghattas was stripped of his diplomatic immunity and arrested in December 2016 after he was caught passing cell phones to convicted Palestinian terrorists in prison.