Israel’s most senior Arab parliamentarian has been criticised for participating in a press conference featuring rival Palestinian factions and a Hamas leader with a £4 million bounty on his head.
Ayman Odeh, who chairs the Joint List, a collection of Arab Israeli politicians with 15 seats in the Israeli parliament, was chastised for attending the conference with Fatah Secretary-General Jibril Rajoub and Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri.
Despite widespread calls for Palestinian reconciliation over the years, it is highly unusual for a joint press conference to be held between Fatah, which is based in the West Bank, and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, but the two came together on Thursday to “unify efforts” in the fight against annexation.
Odeh attended, urging full reconciliation, but fellow Members of the Knesset (MKs) said the problem was al-Arouri, who is accused of conducting Hamas terror activities in the West Bank, including the kidnap and killing of three teenage settlers in 2014.
US officials have offered $5 million for information that leads to the capture of Al-Arouri, who spoke via an online link from Lebanon, warning that Israel should not “disregard the Palestinian determination” to oppose the annexation at all costs.
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Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party said Odeh had “reached a new low” by taking part in the Ramallah press conference “with Hamas members who called to murder Israelis,” while MK Bezalel Smotrich said Odeh should be dismissed.
Yisrael Beitenu leader Avigdor Lieberman tweeted: “Ayman Odeh attended a virtual conference of Fatah and Hamas on the virtual annexation of Netanyahu. I hope that Ayman Odeh and his friends will soon become as virtual as the conference.”
Hamas calls for a return to the “armed struggle” in the West Bank are well-received by the Palestinian public, and most analysts think it would win more votes than Fatah if Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas were to hold elections.
Israeli security personnel think annexation would result in violence, pointing to a recent opinion poll by the Palestinian Center for Survey and Policy Research, which showed that 52 percent supported armed struggle in response.