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Ayman Odeh
Ayman Odeh 2021.png
Faction represented in the Knesset
2015–2019 Joint List
2019 Hadash
2019–2022 Joint List
2022– Hadash
Personal details
Born (1975-01-01) 1 January 1975 (age 49)
Haifa, Israel

Ayman Odeh (Arabic: أيمن عودة; Hebrew: אַיְּימָן עוֹדֶה; born 1 January 1975) is an Israeli Arab lawyer and politician. He is a member of Knesset and leader of the Hadash party.


Ayman Odeh was born in 1975, and raised in Haifa, within the Kababir neighbourhood. His father was a construction worker. Although his family was Muslim, Odeh's parents sent him to a Christian school where he was the only Muslim student, proudly noting that he got an A in New Testament studies on his high school final exams. He now describes himself as having transcended the confines of religion and ethnicity. He studied law at the University of Craiova in Romania from 1993 to 1997. During his law studies in Romania, he took part in pro-Palestinian rallies, learned Romanian, and read the memoirs of various political thinkers and revolutionaries. He earned a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Craiova and in 2001 was certified to practice law in Israel, though he is not a member of the Israel Bar Association.

Odeh is married to Nardine Aseli, a gynecologist, whom he met at the wake for her 17-year-old brother who was killed in 2000 at the start of the Second Intifada. They have three children.

He speaks Arabic, Hebrew, English, and Romanian.

Political career

מפגש מפגינים עם איימן עודה בביתו בחיפה ביום שישי ה-2 באפריל 2021 (1)
A meeting of demonstrators with Ayman Odeh at his home in Haifa on 2 April 2021, to call on him to enter the change government that would prevent Benjamin Netanyahu from continuing to serve as prime minister. The meeting, which began with a demonstration, took place in parallel with the demonstrations in front of the houses of Bennett, Saar and Gantz.

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, 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. 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. Analysts credited the charismatic Odeh for giving the Arab political union a more moderate, pragmatic face. Odeh was elected to the 20th Knesset, along with 12 other candidates from the Joint List.

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.

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.

In the 2020 election, Odeh and the Joint List recommended Benny Gantz for prime minister.

Award and recognition

  • Listed as top 100 leading global thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine
  • Listed as top 100 influential by TheMarker magazine for the year 2016, and was listed in the 9th place
  • Listed as top 100 influential by TheMarker magazine for the year 2017

Views and opinions

Odeh says his service on 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".

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 Mourad), 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. 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."

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".

In October 2015, Odeh gave support to the "unarmed Palestinian struggle". However, when asked about "throwing rocks, ... firebombs, and shooting at cars", Odeh responded that regarding throwing rocks, he supported the First Intifada.

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

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Ayman Odeh para niños

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