By Meron Rapaport, +972 Magazine

Since stepping into the national political scene in 2015, and particularly over the past two years and four rounds of elections, Joint List head Ayman Odeh has turned the removal of Benjamin Netanyahu into a mainstay, if not the mainstay, of his political agenda. Odeh has said time and again, almost at every opportunity, that Netanyahu has been Israel’s worst prime minister with the worst record of incitement against the Palestinian public, making his removal imperative.

Netanyahu’s eventual ouster in June, however, came at a heavy price for the Joint List — an alliance of four factions representing Palestinian society’s disparate political streams — which fell apart under Odeh’s watch. The Islamist Ra’am party, previously part of the Joint List, joined the coalition government, seemingly hijacking Odeh’s agenda. Odeh’s vision of building a wide “democratic camp,” which would fight against racism, the occupation, and for social justice in Israel seemed beyond reach after Israel’s two left-wing Zionist parties, Meretz and Labor, joined a government led by Naftali Bennett, the former head of the Yesha Council, an umbrella organization for the settlement movement in the West Bank.

This left Odeh and the Joint List as the sole left-wing component of the opposition. Whispers that the whole notion of the “democratic camp,” Odeh’s brainchild, was ludicrous began bubbling up inside Hadash, the left-wing, Arab-Jewish slate that Odeh heads.

As if that were not enough, the last two months, with their unprecedented violence in so-called “mixed cities” inside Israel, cast a shadow on whether Jewish and Palestinian communities are able, or at least politically motivated, to work together for any sort of shared cause, or even just live side by side.

But in an interview with Odeh last month, three days after Netanyahu was replaced, it was difficult to detect any signs of change on Odeh. He may have spoken with a little less gusto than usual (although that may also be attributed to the late hour of our meeting at a Tel Aviv café), but his fundamental principles remain the same: a Joint List that represents a demand for civil-political equality and national equality for Israel’s Palestinian citizens; a push toward building a broad “democratic camp” with tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Israeli Jews; and a fervent belief in a two-state solution.

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