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MK Odeh, you won’t destroy what we’re building

You were elected to make decisions and help solve problems, not sow division and instigate mutiny.

Joint Arab List head Ayman Odeh speaks to the media at party headquarters on election night in the Arab city of Shfar'am, March 2, 2020. Photo by David Cohen/Flash90.
Joint Arab List head Ayman Odeh speaks to the media at party headquarters on election night in the Arab city of Shfar'am, March 2, 2020. Photo by David Cohen/Flash90.
Assad Subeh

Knesset member Ayman Odeh and other lawmakers from the Joint Arab List boast of being the emissaries of the Israeli Arab public. Odeh’s call for Arab members of the Israel Defense Forces, Border Police and Israel Police to “throw down their weapons” doesn’t hurt those institutions or the state—these are strong enough to contend with incitement of this sort—it mostly hurts his constituents. I only wish he would apply such passion to the burning issues truly afflicting the Arab public: violence in the villages, infrastructure, resources and the education of the younger generation.

Those serving in the security forces will continue to serve, but the Arab public is the main casualty of Odeh’s diatribe. The doctor or hospital nurse in Tel Aviv, the software engineer at Intel, the tour guide in Nazareth, the building contractor, the mechanic, the restaurant owner—they are all watching from the sidelines and asking themselves, “Does he not see us? What is he doing?”

And Jewish citizens, who meet these Arabs in their day-to-day lives, are struggling to distinguish between the miserable declarations of their elected officials and an entire public that just wants to live in peace and take part in building coexistence here. There are enough challenges and there’s enough inequality that requires fixing. There’s no need for another horror show whose entire purpose is a tired political game at the expense of the common citizen. Whether part of the coalition or not, Odeh was elected to make decisions, not incite and instigate a mutiny.

For many years, ever since I completed my military service as commander of the Herev Battalion, I have taken part in running the Ofakim La’atid (New Horizons) inter-agency task force on Israeli Arab issues, which promotes volunteerism, education and culture among Druze youth. Some were at-risk teenagers who are now becoming youth group leaders, who instead of wandering the streets are undergoing a shared process of personal empowerment, learning about solidarity and active civics, all while upholding tradition. But then along comes an elected official like Odeh, who in one fell swoop can destroy what we’ve been working to build for years. First and foremost as an active citizen and then as a security figure, I cannot stand idly by and allow this to happen.

In this difficult and tense time, we need level-headed, balanced and calm public leadership. Ultimately, there’s no difference between Odeh and the other side of this horror show, Knesset member Itamar Ben-Gvir, when it comes to sowing fear and division.

Odeh and other leaders who don’t identify with the desires of the majority of the Arab public are the main losers of this conduct. The voice of the sane majority will continue to reverberate; coexistence here in Israel is not just predestination—both sides have to want to preserve what we have and improve upon it for the following generations.

The state and elected officials also have to encourage—not just in words but in deeds—investment in the development of Arab villages and the people living there, through informal educational programs. Let us spearhead a new reality and continue cultivating the action-minded communities between us, which have proven to be crucial in fostering a sense of belonging and self-fulfillment among young Druze. This is the only way. Neither Odeh nor anyone of his ilk will be able to sabotage the unique character of Israeli society.

Lt. Col. (res.) Assad Subeh is a former commander of the IDF’s Herev Battalion and a member of the board of directors of the Ofakim La’Atid social activism movement.

This article was first published by Israel Hayom.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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