Israel’s Joint List Has a New Strategy

But Vision, Party, and Partners Stand in the Way of Success

Odeh campaigning in Tira, Israel, September 2019 Amir Cohen / Reuters

On September 17, 2019, the second Israeli election inside of a year failed to produce a coalition government. But September’s vote did yield something historic. Ayman Odeh, the chair of the only Arab party in the Knesset, announced five days after the snap election that his party would endorse Benny Gantz, the chair of the most prominent centrist party, in his effort to form a government. No Arab Israeli leader had endorsed an Israeli prime minister since the time of Yitzhak Rabin in the early 1990s.

The endorsement did not come as a total surprise, however. Since 2015, when he became head of the big-tent party known as the Joint List, Odeh has pressed for establishing a democratic Arab and Jewish bloc that could displace the right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A Gantz government, Odeh imagined, would return to negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and adopt policies that take into

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