Looking past the deadlocked politics of ethno-racism and non-recognition, I’m recommending this remarkable profile of and interview with Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List, comprising almost all of the Arab Israeli parties and including the Arab-Jewish Hadash party. You can read it here. The piece is of interest in its own right. Also noteworthy is its appearance in a mainstream, centrist venue like the Times of Israel.
No longer the head of small splinter party with a handful of seats in the Knesset, now that Odeh might end up heading what might be the third largest party with a projected 12-15 seats, his party and the sector it represents might finally get its due public attention and political influence. If the center-left Zionist Camp and Likud create a national unity government, he could be head of the opposition, which is a formal position with institutional perks, rights, and privileges. This would actually represent a great day in Israel for Israeli democracy.
According to Times of Israel, he’s “elusive” on the right of the Jewish people to national self-determination in the State of Israel. In fact, his comments in the interview constitute a clear recognition of that right to self-determination in the framework of a two-state solution. About rights, the thinking is democratic and anti-zero sum.
“I believe that the Jewish people have a right to self-determination, which the State of Israel has fulfilled. The Palestinian state is meant to realize the right to self-determination of the Arab Palestinian people, and here it ends. In other words, the fact that Jews in Israel enjoy the right to self-determination doesn’t mean they should discriminate against the Arabs.”
“I certainly won’t agree that in my homeland — which is today a joint homeland for both our peoples — the state will be defined and effectively act as the state of only one nation. I want to see myself everywhere and be a full partner.”
For what it’s worth, anecdotally my leftwing friends have been very much won over, while more rightwing friends on Facebook and Twitter find the remarks by Odeh congenial, if not entirely winning. He compares more than better to Avigdor Liberman, who comes off as a racist brute. Focused on citizenship and economic justice instead of nationalism per se, Odeh’s leadership might possibly evoke the same from more reasonable people among his Jewish compatriots. One can hope.