The Chairman of the Joint List, MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash), said Thursday, March 5, that Blue & White Chairman, MK Benny Gantz, would have to walk back comments in support of forming a “Jewish majority” coalition and annexing parts of the occupied West Bank for Odeh’s alliance to recommend that the centrist party leader be tapped to form the next government. “We will not surrender our role as a legitimate group in Israeli politics,” MK Odeh said.
“Right now, with Gantz’s attitude in favor of a Jewish majority and unilateral annexation, we have no one to recommend to the president,” MK Odeh had told the Kan broadcasting network in an earlier interview. “If there is a change after the elections in the direction of peace and equality, we will weigh our position again.”
Throughout the election campaign, Gantz repeatedly distanced himself from the Joint List, saying he would not rely on that alliance in any way, and that he would form a coalition made up of a “Jewish majority” in the Knesset. He never specified which parties he would rely on to form such a government. After coming under fire for the racist “Jewish majority” reference, Gantz apologized for using it, saying that he recognized the offense its use caused Arab citizens when he was interviewed on television days before the election. Gantz instead suggested using the term “Zionist majority.” Evidently, this clarification was not enough to satisfy the Joint List, who demanded a more forceful repudiation of Blue & White’s pre-election stance.
MK Odeh also highlighted his party’s opposition to Gantz’s support for the annexation of lands in the occupied Palestinian West Bank. Weeks before the election, Blue & White leaders paid a visit to the occupied Jordan Valley where they declared their support for declaring Israel’s sovereignty over the area, which makes up roughly 20% of the West Bank. Gantz conditioned his backing on its being coordinated with the international community, which appeared to render the issue moot in that, save for the US, no country has indicated that it would support such a move.