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Odeh willing to enter coalition with Gantz, Ashkenazi rules it out

Joint List head Ayman Odeh would be open to joining a coalition formed by Blue and White leader Benny Gantz under certain circumstances, he said in an interview with Yediot Aharonot.

Sources close to him called the interview historic and said it was the first time an Arab party leader in Israel had ever expressed willingness to enter the coalition. The sources said Odeh has also said recently that he could recommend that Gantz form the next government after not recommending any candidate after the last two elections.

Odeh’s conditions include a peace proposal, annulling the Nation-State Law, stopping Arab house demolitions, building a new Arab city, building a hospital in an Arab city, and taking steps to limit crime, including confiscating illegal weapons, in the Arab towns and villages.

But the head of the Balad party that is part of the Joint List, MK Mtanes Shehadeh, said that Odeh was speaking for himself and not for the entire list. He said there was no chance of joining a party led by racists and generals.

MK Aida Touma-Sliman, who is second behind Odeh in the Hadash party, also countered Odeh’s comments, tweeting: “I invite all those who got excited over what was published in Yediot Aharonot to calm down, there is no change in our stance. We will not sit in a government of occupation, wars and racism. Our terms do not exist in the current political map. Blue and White declare they aspire for a right-wing government with Likud, and have signed a surplus vote agreement with [Avigdor] Liberman.”

Blue and White’s No. 4 candidate, former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, said on Thursday that his party would not invite the Joint Arab List into a coalition. “We will not invite a party that does not recognize Israel as a Jewish state,” Ashkenazi told Army Radio.

The Democratic Union co-leader Stav Shaffir welcomed Odeh’s statements. “Odeh understands that his outlook must change because in a true democracy, all citizens must be at the table, both in the parliament and the government,” Shaffir said.

Labor leader Amir Peretz also said Blue and White should be open to the possibility.

Likud responded to the report saying, “Now it’s clearer than ever: Benny Gantz will form a left-wing government with Ayman Odeh and the Arab parties. Anyone who wants a right-wing government must vote for Likud.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday night that Odeh’s comments proved the election is “Bibi or Tibi,” referring to Joint List MK Ahmed Tibi.

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