Jerusalem – The right-wing factions have all convened at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem and pledged on one right-wing bloc to work together for the next government. The block will be headed by Prime Minister Netanyahu.
The decision was made to form a joint negotiating team for all factions in the right wing, in order to block the left from forming a government.
This development comes amid extremely close results. After 90% of the votes had been counted, there appeared to be a virtual tie between the two main parties and no clear winner within the left-wing and right-wing blocs. Likud and Blue-And-White each had 32 seats, the Joint Arab List had 12, Shas had 9, Agudah 8, Yamina 7, Avoda-Gesher 6 and the Democratic Union-Meretz had 5 seats.
Neither Gantz nor Netanyahu have enough support to form a government without the Yisrael Beitenu party led by Avigdor Lieberman, who has emerged as kingmaker .
Lieberman, a right-winger with a history of incendiary remarks about Arabs, has demanded a national unity government with Likud and Blue and White. That would leave the Joint List as the largest party outside the government and make Odeh Israel’s first-ever Arab opposition leader.
In his official duties as opposition leader, Odeh would hold monthly consultations with the prime minister and meet with visiting dignitaries. He would be granted a state-funded bodyguard, access to high-level security briefings and an official platform to rebut the prime minister’s speeches in parliament.
“This is a very significant, unprecedented level for us,” Odeh told Army Radio. “When presidents from around the world come they’ll meet with us as well.” He has described the prospect of an Arab leader receiving security briefings as “interesting.”
Odeh says his bloc also mobilized support from Israeli Jews, some of whom welcomed its success.
Nahum Barnea, a prominent columnist with Israel’s main daily Yedioth Ahronoth, said the Joint List’s achievement should be measured not in the number of seats it won but in “its ability to build bridges to the mainstream of Israeli politics and society.”
“It is unthinkable to continue to exclude and to humiliate forever 20% of the electorate,” he wrote. “Their expectations in all that pertains to integration, influence and respect all emanate from the ground up. Those expectations have to be met somehow.”