Joint List alliance endorse ex-military chief although say they don’t support his policies
Guardian staff and agencies
Sun 22 Sep 2019
Joint List leader Ayman Odeh, left, after announcing the alliance’s decision. Photograph: Menahem Kahana/Pool/EPA
Israeli Arab political parties have broken with longstanding precedent and endorsed the ex-military chief Benny Gantz for prime minister, in a bid to prevent the incumbent, Benjamin Netanyahu, from forming the next government.
The dramatic move came after the mainly Arab Joint List alliance won 13 seats in Tuesday’s polls, making the bloc the third-largest force in the 120-seat parliament.
In announcing the decision, Joint List leader Ayman Odeh said the alliance’s decision was not an endorsement of Gantz’s policies but a move to oust Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.
It was the first time that majority Arab parties had endorsed a candidate for prime minister since 1992, when they backed Yitzhak Rabin, who went on to sign the Oslo accords with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu has repeatedly been accused of political rhetoric and actions amounting to racism toward Israel’s Arab population. “We have become illegitimate in Israeli politics in the Netanyahu era,” Odeh told Israeli president Reuven Rivlin when informing him of the endorsement. “We are this time recommending Benny Gantz to form the next government.”
Prominent Arab parliament member Ahmad Tibi said “history is done: We’ll do what is needed to bring down Netanyahu.”
But the success of the Arab parties’ mission to end Netanyahu’s long dominance of Israeli politics was far from certain.
Rivlin, who began holding consultations with parties on Sunday to hear their recommendations on who should form the next government, said he believed both Netanyahu’s rightwing Likud and Gantz’s centrist Blue and White should be in the next coalition.