Joint List chairman MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash) slammed MK Isaac Herzog on Friday, following the Zionist Union leader’s comments earlier this week that Israel’s disengagement from Gaza 10 years ago had been a “mistake, but was demographically justified.”
Speaking at Peace Now’s annual conference in Tel Aviv, Odeh called Herzog’s words “a racist statement about me. We are here after the Nakba, Kafr Qasem [a massacre of 49 people died, including 6 women and 23 children aged 8–17, on October 29, 1956] and October 2000 [The deaths of 13 Arab demonstrators in protests in the Galilee] – all of which the Zionist left carried out. True, a small part of the right calls ‘Death to Arabs,’ but the Zionist left will be the death of us.”
Hundreds of participants attended the event at the Tel Aviv Convention Center, which was titled “Israel Now – Building an Alternative.” Among the panelists: two leading members of the Communist Party of Israel, MKs Aida Touma-Sliman and Dov Khenin (Hadash – Joint List).
MK Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union – former Labor Party) said it was Herzog’s right to call the disengagement a security mistake, but she didn’t agree with him. “In my eyes, the mistake in the disengagement was in its unilateralism. Leaving Lebanon too … There is a lot of privilege and power in a unilateral step,” she said.
Odeh told the conference: “The difference between a peace agreement with Jordan and Egypt and the disengagement from Gaza and Lebanon was that there is ISIS [Islamic State] also in Jordan and Sinai, but when there is peace, there are security arrangements… Therefore, the approach needs to be not to separate and run away, but to make an agreement.” During a discussion about where the Zionist left went wrong in the last Knesset election, Odeh asked all the Arabs in the hall to stand up. Two people stood up. “I think this represents a serious problem in the peace camp in the State of Israel,” Odeh said, noting that Israeli Arabs “are 20 percent of the population. We do not want to neutralize this power: It is possible to make decisions about war without the Arab population. But it is impossible to reach peace without the weight of the Arab population,” he added.
Odeh said the Joint List made a mistake when it didn’t sign a surplus-votes agreement with Meretz before the March election. “We made a mistake, not because we need another [Knesset seat], but for a moral reason – if we cannot make such an alliance with Meretz, then with whom is it possible? That’s why I accept the criticism,” he said. Since 1948, there has been a strong security dialogue in Israel, Odeh said, and from the massive social protests in the summer of 2011 a strong social debate. “The time had come to add a civil dialogue,” he added.