MembersWho is the Arab Politician Denying Netanyahu’s Rule?

Little-known just 10 years ago, he has managed to galvanize both Arabs and disenfranchised Jews

By David Lazarus | | Topics: Israeli Arabs, Election
Aymen Odeh is taking Israeli politics by storm.
Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Who is the rising star in Israeli politics preventing Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a government? His name is Ayman Odeh, a charismatic Arab politician who has emerged as one of the biggest surprises of Israel’s recent elections.

Odeh’s Joint Arab List is now the third-largest faction in the Israeli Knesset with 15 seats, potentially preventing Netanyahu from cobbling together the 61 seats he needs to form a ruling coalition.

 

Is he Muslim, Christian, Israeli or Palestinian?

Odeh is a 45-year-old lawyer who heads the Joint Arab List now making headlines in Israeli politics. The young politician grew up in a Muslim family from Haifa with roots going back 300 years along the Carmel Mountain range. He was the only Muslim student in a Christian school and got an A in New Testament studies on his high school final exams.

The unlikely head of Israel’s third largest party is an Ahmadi Muslim, a stream of Islam indigenous to Israel and the surrounding countries that calls for tolerance, peace and brotherhood. He also identifies as a Palestinian Arab and feels...

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