“The truth is we could be the real deciding factor in this election,” Joints List leader MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash) told The Associated Press this week. “Without us the right-wing government will not be replaced. We can’t do it alone, but without us it can’t be done.” Far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu forced the September 17 election after failing to put together a ruling majority after elections last April. This is the first time Israel has held two elections in the same year. Polls project that the Joint List will become the third-largest parliamentary bloc after the election, as it was following the 2015 election for the 20th Knesset.
“I don’t want to wait until there is a change for me to start influencing. I want to be part of that process,” he said. “The Arabs in Israel want peace and equality. They want pragmatic and influential leadership to implement these principles.” Reviving old racist tactics, Netanyahu has been seeking to galvanize his right-wing base by painting the Arab minority as disloyal and even treasonous. In 2015, he infamously tried to mobilize supporters on Election Day by warning that Arab voters were heading “in droves” to the polls. The Likud also faced accusations of voter suppression by placing cameras nearby voting booths in Arab villages in this year’s April election. The Central Elections Committee, which is headed by a Supreme Court judge, banned the practice this time around.
Odeh says it is more likely that he will become the country’s next opposition leader, an official state position that would grant him an audience with visiting dignitaries, a state-funded bodyguard, monthly consultations with the prime minister and a platform to rebut the latter’s speeches in parliament.