Jewish Agency head raps Arab-Israeli lawmaker for refusal to meet Jewish leaders


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky criticized Arab-Israeli lawmaker Ayman Odeh for refusing to attend a meeting with American-Jewish leaders because it was being held in office space shared with the agency.

“It is unfortunate that members of Knesset from the Joint List are more interested in scoring cheap and expedient political points than they are in advancing the well being of their communities,” Sharansky said in a statement, referring to the refusal by Odeh, who heads the Arab Joint List party, to meet with dozens of leaders from the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.

The Presidents Conference leaders were waiting in a meeting room in its offices when Odeh arrived at the building and realized that the Presidents Conference is on the same floor as the Jewish Agency for Israel. Odeh offered to meet in another venue but was rebuffed by the Presidents Conference.

“I came here to represent the Arab public in Israel to American audiences,” Odeh said in a statement after refusing to attend the meeting. “As their representative, I cannot in good conscience participate in meetings in the offices of organizations whose work displaces Arab citizens, just as in the Knesset, we do not participate in the Ministry of Defense, the Foreign Ministry, and the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption.

Sharansky noted that thousands of Arab-Israeli families participate in Jewish Agency programs.

“It is high time MK Odeh and his colleagues did the same,” he said.

The Joint List party, the result of four Arab parties coalescing, won 13 seats in Israel’s national elections in March, making it the third largest faction in the Knesset.

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