Ayman Odeh

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You are Ayman Odeh, Head of the Joint List alliance, and member of parliament



“The thing I fear the most is that the Palestinians will grow so desperate about the impossibility of two states that they ask for one state”

“I agree with myself on 80 percent of things, but when I look at myself in the mirror in the morning, I still have inner debates about the right thing to do”

“There can't be real peace without improving the integration of Arab society and making it part of the political game”

“​The struggle for equality is really a struggle for democracy, and that's why it's a struggle for all the population”

Early Life:

You are Ayman Odeh. You were born on January 1st, 1975, in Haifa. You were the only Muslim in your Christian school, and had to face being a religious and ethnic minority from a young age. You were raised hearing stories of the​ Nakba​, and of how your people’s homeland was stolen from you by outsiders. Due to your assimilation into the surrounding area, you speak Hebrew almost as fluently as you do Arabic.

Your first experience with political activism occurred in 1988, during the First Intifada. You snuck out of your home at age 13 to participate in a peaceful protest and rally for equal rights for Arabs in both Israel and occupied territories. You continued to be highly involved in the movement. At age 16, you were interrogated by the Shin Bet, the Israeli internal security service. You are interrogated three more times, and you begin to live in a constant state of paranoia. After encouragement from your father, you went to Romania to study law at the Mihai Eminescu University. You went on to pass the Israeli Bar Association’s qualifying exams in 2001.

You are married to Nardin Asleh. Her younger brother, Asel Asleh, was one of 13 people killed at demonstrations in October, 2000.

Early Career:

At age 23, you joined the Haifa City Council. You originally maintained a political philosophy fueled by anger, but later moved towards one of hope for peace and mutual respect. You represented the Hadash party (Democratic Front for Peace and Equality) between 1998 and 2003 on the Haifa City Council. You were a project director for the Sikkuy (Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality) between 2003 and 2006. In your “maiden speech” (first speech made after getting a seat in the Knesset), you spoke of your aspirations for peace and equality between Jewish and Arab Israelis.

Hadash Party:

You became secretary-general of Hadash in 2006. You were on the list of candidates to go to the Knesset, but did not make it in either 2009 or 2013. In 2015, when the previous leader Mohammed Barakeh resigned, you were elected as party leader, which you have served as since. Hadash is one of the four parties that make up the Joint List alliance, the other three being Balad, Ta’al, and Ra’am. Balad is adamantly supportive of a one state solution, and condones what many Israeli’s see as terrorist activity. Hadash, however, is supported by both Jewish and Palestinian Israelis. One of their five seats in the Knesset belongs to a Jewish Israeli. They are supportive of a two-state solution, and advocate for nonviolent forms of protest.

Joint List Alliance:

You were one of the leading forces in the formation of the Joint List alliance, an anti-Zionist coalition of the Arab political parties in the Knesset. In 2015, Avigdor Lieberman (leader of Yisrael Beiteinu, a right-wing nationalist party) led in the creation of the Governance Law; a new right-wing law aimed at diminishing Israeli Arab’s political presence. This led you and other Israeli Arab party leaders to join together. Netanyahu was able to win by warning of the growing power and influence, but the Joint List was now the third-largest group in the Knesset.

Issues of Concern:

You are a strong advocate of a two-state solution following the 1967 border. You believe that either side suggesting a one-state solution leaves out the needs and views of the other, and that to have true discourse both sides must agree to work together. The basis of your thought process here is that you believe both Jews and Palestinians have the right to self-determination. Your main goal is peaceful coexistence between Jewish and Arab Israelis. You aim to create friendly discourse between those from opposite sides of the conflict, and lead by example in doing so. Your work has put Arab politicians into a much more prominent role in Israeli politics, and may lead to a cross-cultural coalition in the future. Your work on this has led you to be listed as one of the top 100 leading global thinkers according to Foreign Policy magazine. You consistently prioritize Arab civil rights, and believe that they should have equal rights without needing to assimilate into Jewish Israeli culture. You have a strong disdain for the Jewish Agency and other Zionist organizations. You have refused to attend meetings held in the same building as the Jewish Agency to make clear that you do not support their work regarding the occupation. You support the release of Palestinian Leader Marwan Barghouti, convicted in Israel for murder and currently serving a sentence of life in prison. You have visited him in jail multiple times, and believe that his release could be the start of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Fatah. You are supportive of Benny Gantz, and have worked with him in pursuing a “unity government” which includes representation of many different viewpoints in the coalition. This has led to a bridge between Gantz and the current Prime Minister Netahyahu, who has referred to the Joint List as “terror supporters”. You do not support the BDS (boycott, divest, sanction) movement. You believe for it to be effective it must be more specific by only boycotting products made in Israeli settlements.

Playing Ayman Odeh:

You are mild-mannered and conflict averse, and are generally well-liked within the Knesset. You are slightly conflicted over working in Israeli government. Early Israeli leaders are the ones responsible for the Nakba, and they are revered and respected by Jewish Israeli citizens. You struggle with working alongside those whose opinions differ so drastically from your own, but understand that this is a necessary burden to carry in order to make any political progress on behalf of your people. There is mutual suspicion between Jewish Israeli and Palestinian Israeli members of the Knesset, making it more difficult to form relationships and be taken seriously. For example, Prime Minister Netahyahu refuses to form a coalition that includes Israeli Arabs, and denounces Benny Gantz for his willingness to do so. You believe that the only way to make progress is to accept what has happened in the past, but attempt to move past it. Only through empathy can the two sides come together. You have a good working relationship with Mahmoud Abbas, who believes that you will be the one to bring peace to the Middle East.


“Ayman Odeh.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 8 Mar. 2020


Davidovich, Joshua, et al. “Defense Ministry Takes over Buying Corona-Related Gear amid Claims of Shortages.” The Times of Israel, 18 Mar. 2020


Davidovich, Joshua, et al. “Not without My Joint List: 7 Things to Know for March 13.” The Times of Israel, 13 Mar. 2020


Houminer-Rosenblum, Aviad, et al. “Joint List - 4 Arab Parties on 1 Slate - Is Poles Apart but Strong Together.” The Times of Israel, 14 Mar. 2020


Kampeas, Ron, et al. “Ayman Odeh Brings His Message of Shared History - and Destiny - to America.” Ayman Odeh Brings His Message of Shared History - and Destiny - to America | The Jewish Standard, 12 Dec. 2015


Maynard, David, et al. “It Is Time for the Israeli Arab Parties to Be in the Government.” Ron Kronish | The Blogs, 2 Feb. 2020


Miller, Elhanan, et al. “After Uniting Arabs behind Him, Ayman Odeh Looks to Lead Opposition.” The Times of Israel, 4 Mar. 2015


“Mk Ayman Odeh: Official Site.”


Remnick, David. “A Palestinian Israeli Leader for Peace.” The New Yorker, 9 July 2019


Wootliff, Raoul, et al. “Can Gantz Form a Government as Israel Fights the Coronavirus? Should He?” The Times of Israel, 17 Mar. 2020


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