Ayman Odeh

Ayman Odeh
Date of birth (1975-01-01) 1 January 1975
Place of birth Haifa, Israel
Knessets 20
Faction represented in Knesset
2015– Joint List

Ayman Odeh (Arabic: أيمن عودة, Hebrew: איימן עודה; born 1 January 1975) is an Israeli Arab lawyer and politician.[1] He is a member of the Knesset and head of the Joint List, a political alliance of four Arab-dominated parties—Hadash, Balad, the United Arab List, and Ta'al.


Ayman Odeh was born in 1975, and raised in Haifa, within the Kababir neighbourhood. He was the only Muslim student in his Christian school, but now describes himself as having transcended the confines of religion and ethnicity.[1] He identifies as a socialist.[2] Odeh is married to Nardine Aseli, a physician, and has three children.

Political career

Odeh joined Hadash, and represented it on Haifa City Council between 1998 and 2005, before becoming the party's secretary-general in 2006. He was placed 75th on the party's list for the 2009 elections,[3] in which Hadash won four seats. He won sixth place on the party's list for the 2013 Knesset elections, but failed to enter the Knesset, as the party again won four seats.

Following the announcement that Hadash leader Mohammed Barakeh was resigning prior to the 2015 elections, Odeh was elected as the party's new leader.[4] In the buildup to the 2015 elections, Hadash joined the Joint List, an alliance of the main Arab parties. Odeh was placed at the head of the Joint List's electoral list, which is expected to put him at the head of a significant parliamentary faction in the new Knesset. Analysts credited the charismatic Odeh for giving the Arab political union a more moderate, pragmatic face.[1][5][6] Odeh was elected to the 20th Knesset, along with 12 other candidates from the Joint List.[7][8]

In an interview with The Times of Israel, Odeh discussed the Joint List's social agenda, including a 10-year plan to tackle issues pertinent to the Arab sector, such as employment of women, rehabilitation of failing regional councils, recognition of unrecognized Bedouin communities in the Negev, public transportation in Arab towns, and eradication of violence. He also said he supported the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in Israel, adding that a Palestinian state should fulfill the same goals for Arab Palestinians.[5]

Odeh's campaign for the March 2015 elections had a "breakthrough moment" when, in a televised debate of candidates, Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's foreign minister, called Odeh a "Palestinian citizen" and said Odeh was not welcome in Israel. Odeh replied, "I am very welcome in my homeland. I am part of the nature, the surroundings, the landscape", contrasting his birth in Israel with Lieberman's immigration from the former Soviet Union. Odeh is now viewed as a potential power broker given that Arab parties appear to be uniting to meet the government's requirement that parties meet a minimum threshold of votes to secure a place in the Knesset. Odeh has a style that contrasts with that of MK Haneen Zoabi, who is more confrontational. Odeh voices his willingness to work with Jewish partners, and he often quotes Martin Luther King, Jr.[9]

Award and recognition

  • Listed as top 100 leading global thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine .[10][11]
  • Listed as top 100 influenctial by The Marker magazine for the year 2016, and was listed in the 9th place .[12]
  • Listed as top 100 influenctial by The Marker magazine for the year 2017.[13]

Views and opinions

Odeh says his service in the Haifa city council made it clear to him that Arabs and Jews must work together. He describes Haifa as "the most liberal multicultural yet homogenous city in Israel".[14]

Odeh has also expressed strong support for increasing recognition of Mizrahi culture and Arab Jewish history in official Israeli and Palestinian discourses; in a widely cited speech to the Knesset plenum in July 2015, MK Odeh argued that the State of Israel has systematically discriminated against and suppressed the culture of Jews who immigrated to Israel from Arab and Muslim lands (who make up the majority of the Israeli population) in order to feed the idea of a natural separation between Jews and Arabs. He also argued that the large role played by Jews in forming historical and modern Arab culture (including famous Jews such as Rabbi David Buzaglo, who wrote Jewish religious poetry primarily in Arabic, and famous Jews who were popular in the Arab world in the mid-20th Century, such as Leila Murad), has been forgotten by Jews and Arabs alike due to the ideological elements of the Arab–Israeli conflict, and the desire by Israel's elite to portray a Western image of Jews and of the country. Odeh called upon Jewish and Arab members of the Knesset alike to support a new Knesset committee (which he had joined as a member) lobbying for the re-emphasizing of the culture of Jews from Arab and Muslim lands.[15] In that speech, Odeh summarized his position thus: "The culture of the Jews of Arab and Islamic countries is a shared Jewish and Arab culture. Because of this, the state has fought [against] it, and yet because of this [same reason], we must fight to strengthen it."[16]

Odeh says, "We represent those who are invisible in this country, and we give them a voice. We also bring a message of hope to all people, not just to the Arabs, but to the Jews, too".[17]

In October 2015, Odeh gave support to the "unarmed Palestinian struggle".[18]

Condemning the attacks in Brussels, Belgium, on March 22nd, 2016, Odeh stated: "ISIS is the enemy of all mankind."[19]

In February 2016, Odeh considered resigning from the Knesset to show his protest against a controversial MK suspension bill.[20]

Shin Bet interrogations

Israel's internal intelligence agency, the Shin Bet, has interrogated Odeh many times in the past. He said in an interview to The New Yorker: "I was called three more times by the Shin Bet. They never hit me. But they succeeded in two things. I isolated myself from my friends—I became much more introverted. And I had the sense the Shin Bet was watching me no matter where I went. When I went to the bus station, and I saw some guy in sunglasses, I just assumed he was Shin Bet."[21]

Death threats

A right-wing activist was arrested in February 2016 for making death threats against Odeh.[22] On 18 January 2017, Odeh was injured as he protested against the demolition of the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran; Odeh claimed he was shot in the head with a sponge-tipped bullet. Rabbi Arik Ascherman, who was present at the incident, wrote:

I was an eyewitness to the attack on MK Ayman Odeh. He approached the police, with his hands in the air, and announced that he was an MK. Officers, undoubtedly furious, and even more aggressive than usual because a fellow officer had been struck, said that they didn’t care. They began pushing and striking. Some officers began lashing out with their rifles. I and many others were pepper sprayed. Stumbling after Oudeh in retreat, sponge covered bullets whizzed past my ears. MK Oudeh was shot in the back by one of them, and fell to the ground.[23]

Israel Police claimed that he was hit by stones thrown by other protestors.[24][25]

According to the report issued by the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute, on the basis of an examination conducted by Dr. Maya Furman-Resnick, "the injuries 'were consistent" with injuries caused by sponge-tipped bullets', though '(i)t is not possible to nail down [with certainty] the form of the injurious objects, but at the same time, the location of the injury and the form could have been caused as [Odeh] claimed.'"[26] Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan hailed the report as a vindication, asserting that Odeh was a "lying lawbreaker who has fanned the flames and stood at the head of a violent group." The Israeli police denied that any statement had ever been issued regarding the circumstances of Odeh's injury.[26]


  1. 1 2 3 Laub, Karin (4 March 2015). "Rise of pragmatic Arab politician shakes up Israeli politics". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  2. Rettig Gur, Haviv (27 February 2015). "TV debate exposes Israel's good, bad and ugly". Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  3. Hadash Knesset website (in Hebrew)
  4. Zahalka wins Balad primaries, Odeh to lead Hadash, Times of Israel, 17 January 2015. Retrieved 3 April 2015
  5. 1 2 Miller, Elhanan (4 March 2015). "After uniting Arabs behind him, Ayman Odeh looks to lead opposition". Times of Israel. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  6. Shrenzel, Israel (28 February 2015). "The joint Arab list: Careful who you vote for". Haaretz. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  7. "20th Knesset to be sworn in March 31, 2015". Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 23 March 2015. Retrieved 29 March 2015.
  8. תוצאות האמת של הבחירות לכנסת ה-20 [Actual results of the 20th Knesset elections] (in Hebrew). Israeli Central Elections Committee. Retrieved 29 March 2015.
  9. Hadid, Diaa (15 March 2015). "Arab Alliance Rises as Force in Israeli Elections". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  10. "Israeli Arab Party Leader Makes Foreign Policy's 100 leading Global Thinkers List". haaretz.com.
  11. "For Uniting Israel's Arabs". foreignpolicy.com.
  12. "Ayman Odeh 100 most influenctial". themarker.com.
  13. themarker.com https://www.themarker.com/st/c/prod/tm/2017/09/influ/index_mobile.html. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. Schulman, Marc (6 March 2015). "Israeli Election: What Do Israeli Arabs Want?". Newsweek. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  15. Odeh, Ayman (15 July 2015). "Arab Israelis must help to save and promote the culture of the Jews from Arab lands". Speech to the Knesset of Israel (in Hebrew). Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  16. Author's translation. Original source in Hebrew: http://mekomit.co.il/?????-?????-???-???????/
  17. "Israel's Arab political parties have united for the first time". The Washington Post.
  18. Ben Solomon, Ariel (October 6, 2015). "Odeh: I do not put limits on the Palestinian struggle against 'occupation'". The Jerusalem Post.
  19. "MK Ayman Odeh in response to Belgium attacks: 'ISIS is the enemy of all mankind'". The Jerusalem Post.
  20. "Joint List's Odeh threatens to resign from Knesset if bill is used to remove Balad MKs". The Jerusalem Post.
  21. Remnick, David (25 January 2016). "Seeds of Peace". The New Yorker. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
  22. Gancman, Lee (11 February 2016). "Right-winger arrested for death threats against chairman, Arab party says". Times of Israel. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
  23. Arik Ascherman 'Eyewitness Account of the Preventable Umm Al Hiran Tragedy,' The Times of Israel 26 January 2017
  24. http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Protestors-claim-Joint-List-MK-shot-in-head-as-police-secure-Umm-al-Hiran-478798 Protesters claim injured Arab-Israeli MK shot in Negev clashes] The Jerusalem Post, 18 January 2017
  25. 'Fear and loathing in Umm al-Hiran,' The Times of Israel, 19 January 2017
  26. 1 2 Jack Khoury, Jonathan Lis, 'Forensic Probe Fails to Determine What Injured Israeli Arab Lawmaker at Bedouin Village Protest,' Haaretz 1 February 2017
Party political offices
Preceded by
Mohammad Barakeh
Leader of Hadash
New office Leader of the Joint List
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