Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh defended his party’s decision not to release a statement eulogizing former president and prime minister Shimon Peres, saying Thursday that it kept quiet out of respect for the dead, despite having a “complex message” about him.
After Peres’ death, not one MK from the Joint List released a statement about Peres, even upon request, while multiple law makers from every other party in the Knesset did eulogize the former president on Wednesday.
Odeh tweeted to explain the silence: “The memory of Peres in the Arab public is different from the narrative discussed in recent years, and I realize such complex messages are difficult to hear a moment after someone died.
“Peres has two important, positive points to his merit from the 90s: Going towards peace while building partners in the Arab public, after which 90% of the Arab public voted for him [in the 1996 direct election for prime minister], but, conversely, we have fierce opposition to his security stances of the occupation and building settlements, bringing nuclear weapons to the Middle East, and unfortunately, as president, he chose to support [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and his policies,” Odeh wrote on Twitter.
Odeh expanded on his statements in an interview with Army Radio.
“This is something complex, not easy. It’s a different political perception. But we still have respect for someone who died yesterday. Complex messages can be brought up later,” Odeh said, when asked about his silence and that of his colleagues in his faction.
The Joint List chairman said he can “honestly and courageously” say positive things that Peres did in the 1990s: “He led the Arab population to be a legitimate part of politics, and that is in his merit.”
However, Odeh added, “I am not part of the celebration of his history since 1948 and the nuclear reactor…I cannot be a partner to it, especially since, when he was president, he never criticized the Prime Minister…The 1990s were very important years in Peres’ history, and I can say positive things, but I am not part of the celebration around him…Peres didn’t continue in this way in recent years. He was quiet and didn’t pursue real peace.
“All these things, since 1948, brought disaster to my nation,” he stated. “Therefore, I have a complex message.”
Odeh repeated that he chose not to speak out because he has respect for the dead. In addition, he said, he will not go to Peres’ funeral.