(JNS) On Dec. 9, MK Ayman Odeh met in New York with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres. The meeting was arranged by the PLO’s mission to the U.N. Odeh heads the Hadash Party and is a co-leader of the five-member Joint Arab List Knesset faction, along with MK Ahmed Tibi. During the course of their meeting, Odeh reportedly delivered a petition to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
In his petition, Odeh requested that the council condemn Israel for failing to adequately fight the rising levels of violent crime in the Israeli Arab community. While the text of Odeh’s petition has yet to be made public, its underlying purpose is obvious. Odeh’s purpose was to delegitimize Israel by proclaiming it both incapable and unworthy of asserting its sovereignty over its Arab citizens.
Odeh’s meeting demonstrated that the elected representatives of Israel’s Arab community believe that it is reasonable and desirable to make common cause with Israel’s enemies and to delegitimize Israel’s very right to exist. The PLO mission at the U.N. is waging an all-out diplomatic war against Odeh’s country with just that end in mind. Earlier this month, the PLO mission led the successful passage of a General Assembly resolution that declared Israel’s founding a “catastrophe.”
The U.N. Human Rights Council to which Odeh directed his petition is a cesspool of antisemitism. Criminalizing the Jewish state and denying basic human rights to Israeli Jews are top priorities for the body, which has made condemning Israel an automatic agenda item at all its meetings.
Not for the first time, this week the Council’s Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, Francesca Albanese, was exposed as a rabid anti-Jewish bigot with the revelation of hideously antisemitic remarks she made in the past. Last week, Albanese participated in a conference in Gaza attended by senior terror masters from Hamas and Islamic Jihad. There—again, not for the first time—Albanese justified Palestinian terrorism against Israel.
Albanese is far from the only Council official with a long record of violently antisemitic pronouncements and positions. To the contrary, her hatred for Jews is a dominant position at the Human Rights Council.
In defending his meeting with Guterres, Odeh insisted that “[Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad] Erdan doesn’t represent us. We will represent ourselves.”
Odeh isn’t the first Arab parliamentarian to turn to the U.N. and other international institutions in an effort to undermine Israel’s right to exist. In 2018, the PLO mission arranged for his party members Aida Touma-Sliman and Yousef Jabareen to meet with senior U.N. officials. The purpose of their meeting was to advance the antisemitic narrative—now rampant in the U.N.—that Israel is an apartheid state. The irony that they spread the libel despite the fact that their very membership in the Knesset proves its utter falsehood obviously escaped them.
There is a difference, though, between Odeh’s meeting last week and his colleagues’ meetings in 2018. In 2018, no Zionist parties in the Knesset—from Labor to the precursor of the Religious Zionist Party, regarded the Joint List a viable partner in government. Across the spectrum, everyone understood that a party that rejects Israel’s right to exist, supports terrorism and makes common cause with Israel’s enemies cannot serve in government. Building a government dependent on the support of such parties endangers Israel’s future both as a Jewish state and as a democracy.
In 2022, this widespread understanding and taboo disappeared. On election eve Nov. 1, Yesh Atid and Labor ministers and their supporters sat in television studios fervently hoping for the Joint List—and the even more avowedly radical Balad party—would cross the electoral threshold and return to the Knesset. In the lead-up to Nov. 1, Yesh Atid spent millions of shekels on campaigns to get out the Arab vote.
Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid and his allies did so with full knowledge that almost the entire Israeli Arab community would vote for the three Arab parties, which all reject Israel’s right to exist and support terrorism. Throughout the elections, Lapid’s clear if generally unspoken intention was to form a coalition with all or some of those parties, despite their efforts on behalf of and in cooperation with Israel’s enemies towards the goal of destroying the Jewish state.
In 2019, Israel was thrown into political chaos when Yisrael Beyteinu party leader Avigdor Liberman refused to join a Netanyahu-led government. Lieberman’s decision to abandon the right-religious bloc, despite his party’s ideological affiliation with that camp, launched Israel into a new era of politics. In this new era, acceptance or rejection of incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, rather than ideological convictions, is the basis for coalition building.
Until “Never Bibi” vs. “Bibi” emerged as the underlying rationale of political life in Israel, left-leaning parties were capable of joining Netanyahu-led, predominately right-wing coalitions, and they did. Now that is no longer the case. The sides have become calcified and no cooperation is possible.
The consequence is that both sides have become dependent on their farthest edges. Netanyahu is dependent on the two factions of the Religious Zionist Party led by Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir to form a government. Lapid is dependent on the success and cooperation of the three Arab parties—the PLO-aligned Joint Arab List, the Muslim Brotherhood-aligned United Arab List (Ra’am) and the Baathist/Qatar-aligned Balad Party. Lapid lost the election because Balad and the post-Zionist Meretz Party failed to cross the electoral threshold. If they had gotten elected, as his electioneering in the Arab sector made clear, Lapid would have happily formed a government with them.
A lot of ink has been spilled in recent weeks in Israel and abroad castigating Smotrich and Ben Gvir. They have been chastised as illiberal, even fascist. These are slanderous misrepresentations of both. Ben-Gvir is a populist nationalist. Smotrich is a Jewish counterpart to evangelical Christian policymakers.
Both men have strong ideological motivations that drive their public policy agendas. At the same time, both Smotrich and Ben-Gvir accept Israel’s two most fundamental characteristics—that it is a Jewish state and a democracy. They understand that the determination of Israel’s policies and future are for the people of Israel to decide. They play retail and wholesale politics to convince their countrymen to vote for them and support them.
When they lose, as the right did in the last election, Smotrich and Ben-Gvir willingly serve in the opposition. During the tenure of the outgoing government, they did not behave like Odeh. They didn’t go abroad to demonize the government or make common cause with Israel’s enemies and work towards the country’s destruction. They didn’t even act like Lapid, Liberman and outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who are calling for Israelis to take to the streets, rebel and stop paying taxes. During their tenure in the opposition, like their Likud counterparts, Ben-Gvir and Smotrich and their party used the tools of the Knesset and public opinion to bring down the government.
The left’s replacement of ideology with hatred as its guiding political principle has made it impossible for its constituent parties to recognize any common ground with Likud and its coalition partners. For instance, over the past 15 years, Lapid and Liberman, outgoing Justice Minister Gideon Saar and members of their parties made countless statements in favor of limiting the currently unchecked powers of the Supreme Court, the state prosecution and the attorney general. There is no objective reason that they and their parties shouldn’t be able to work constructively with the incoming coalition to pass a meaningful judicial and legal reform package. And yet, today, the incoming governing coalition must take as a given that any reform package its members put forward will not merely be opposed, it will be demonized and delegitimized by the opposition.
The incoming opposition’s preference for openly anti-Zionist parties over their fellow Zionists on the right means that sober-minded deliberation, not to mention comradery, are no longer possible in the Israeli people’s house. With the left in the throes of their anti-Netanyahu miasma of hatred, politics in Israel have become a zero-sum game.
The time has come for Lapid and his colleagues to begin a process of introspection. They should ask how they arrived at the point where they automatically embrace the Arab parties that seek Israel’s destruction, while demonizing their political opponents on the right—whether in Likud, the Haredi parties or the Religious Zionist factions.
If the Zionist parties in the leftist bloc fail to undertake this process, two things will happen. Captivated by their anti-Zionist Arab “partners,” they will be sucked into the vortex of anti-Zionism themselves. And the public will repay them for their betrayal of the Zionist ethos by keeping them in the political opposition for decades.
Caroline Glick is an award-winning columnist and author of The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East.