(March 12, 2019 / JNS)
The events of the past few days properly illustrate the main question leading up to the election: Will the center-left parties, together with the Arab parties, be able to form an obstructionist bloc against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? The negotiations surrounding the creation of such a bloc are already unfolding, with each side marking their position and drafting their conditions for a future alliance.
In the anti-Zionist camp, Knesset member Ayman Odeh has emerged as the primary wheeler and dealer. This shouldn’t come as a surprise—the Hadash Party chairman is already reputed as more moderate than his colleague, Ahmad Tibi, leader of the Ta’al faction. Even if this branding as a moderate is baseless (both he and Tibi share the dream of dismantling the Jewish state), the public-relations teams working for Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz would clearly rather evade the bear hug of Yasser Arafat’s former trusted adviser. Odeh, on the other hand, hasn’t merely sufficed with asserting that an alliance with Gantz and Lapid is the only alternative to a right-wing government, he is already working on the various stipulations of this alliance.
As a polished politician, the Hadash chairman understands the need for two conditions to materialize for his plan to succeed. The first condition relates to the period before the election—the link-up between Gantz’s Blue and White Party and the Arab parties cannot be public. The voters that Gantz is trying to attract aren’t especially gung-ho about a government influenced by a blend of Communists, Islamists and Arab nationalists. To meet this condition, both sides will seek to minimize the value of such an alliance and will silence any talk that exposes the clear and common interest that binds them, all in an effort to maintain Gantz’s disguise as a centrist. Their problem is that it’s difficult to ensure everyone stays quiet. People will talk and comments will occasionally surface. Case in point is the statement that recently emerged from Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas’s office that the Palestinian Authority prefers Gantz over Netanyahu.
The second condition pertains to the period after the election, to the days between the vote itself and when party representatives consult with the president. The Arab parties will need to restrain their appetite and curb the demands from their Blue and White ally. To be sure, without them Gantz has no chance of getting what he wants from the president, but if they overplay their hand and ask Gantz for too much, he won’t be able to agree.
It appears that Odeh already understands this and is drafting his list of demands based on the precedents established in 1992 and 1999. What will Gantz have to give in exchange for Odeh’s recommendation to the president?
Here is the “modest” and incomplete list, as Odeh himself has indicated: a return to the land-for-peace outline with the P.A.; freezing the government’s battle against Arab seizures of state-owned lands; massive budget allotments for Arab municipalities with no conditioning of their proper management; and, of course, abolishing the Basic Law: Israel, The Nation-State of the Jewish People, otherwise known as the nation-state law.
If anyone thinks this nightmare scenario is unrealistic, they should read the article Odeh recently wrote for The New York Times, in which he laid out the anti-Zionist parties’ ideological framework for a future recommendation of Gantz as prime minister. This method worked with Yitzhak Rabin, Odeh says, longingly recounting the Oslo days: The Arab parties gave their support, and the prime minister from the left gave them a retreat. Odeh and Tibi are now following the exact same formula.
Ariel Bolstein is the founder of the Israel advocacy organization Faces of Israel.