Is Israel’s Arab Joint List breaking apart forward of March elections?


Jan 15, 2021

Best, worst of occasions

Israeli Arabs make up 21%, or about 2 million, of Israel’s approximately 9.2 million residents. These numbers don’t embody the greater than 5 million Palestinians living within the West Bank and Gaza, who will not be Israeli residents and don’t vote in Israeli elections.

About 90% of the Israeli Arabs who participate in elections vote for members of the Arab Joint List, the coalition of 4 Israeli Arab events within the Knesset.

In the March 2020 elections, the Joint List bought 15 seats — essentially the most in its historical past — out of the 120 seats within the Israeli parliament. That might not seem to be a lot, however it’s — Israel has a lot of small events, and postelection politicking to place collectively a majority coalition can come right down to only a handful of seats. The Joint record is the third-largest faction within the parliament.

Those 15 seats, nevertheless, have usually introduced Israel’s Arab residents little however disappointment. Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud coalition, and the Blue and White alliance led by Benny Gantz, made clear within the politicking main as much as their now-broken unity authorities that they might not be working with the Arabs to kind a authorities. So the 15-strong bloc and the two million residents it represents have been bystanders but once more in Israeli governance.

The highway to Nazareth

But now there’s a rethink happening. It all began when Knesset member Mansour Abbas of the Islamist Ra’am (United Arab List) get together, a member of the Joint List coalition, mentioned he was able to work with Netanyahu, shaking up not solely the Arab events, however Israeli politics extra broadly.

Ben Caspit advised us that Ra’am working with Netanyahu is extra of a shock than if the US conservative Tea Party motion joined forces with liberal US Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont unbiased who made a robust run for the Democratic presidential nomination final 12 months. In different phrases, it is senseless in any method. Ra’am can be a fellow traveler with the Muslim Brotherhood. It all quantities, in Caspit’s phrases, to a historic drama.

Next got here the center-left Meretz get together, which has solely three seats within the Knesset. This month Meretz named two Arabs amongst its prime 5 candidates on its record for the March elections: activist Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi from Nazareth and former Knesset member Esawi Frej. Meretz is keen to work with any and all opposition events, together with these on the fitting, to unseat Netanyahu, as Meretz chief Nitzan Horowitz advised Caspit in a podcast interview final month.

The centrist Yesh Atid (“There is a Future”) Party, which holds 15 Knesset seats and is chaired by former Finance Minister Yair Lapid, can be contemplating including an Arab candidate to its record for the March elections. Lapid, by the best way, accused Netanyahu of incitement and dismissed Gantz’s potential to guide the opposition to the prime minister in a podcast interview with Caspit in August.

And now even Netanyahu realizes that in a good race to carry onto energy, the disaffected 2 million Arab residents is likely to be the important thing. There is discuss he might title Nail Zoabi, a Muslim Arab from the northern village of Nein, to a slot on the Knesset record.

So Netanyahu, who “plotted to delegitimize the Arab vote” in previous elections, writes Afif Abu Much, “is now its leading suitor, indirectly paving the way for parties on the center-left to resume their wooing of Arab voters.”

And that brings us to the spectacle of Netanyahu stumping for votes in Nazareth on Jan. 13. Nazareth has about 78,000 residents, almost all Arabs. 

Mazal Mualem describes the scene: “As usual, Netanyahu hogged the agenda. He arrived with the full trappings of his high office in Israel’s largest Arab city, accompanied by a long convoy of cars and dozens of Shin Bet security agents. The highly unusual visit was carefully scripted in the best marketing tradition. Netanyahu’s ‘Nazareth speech,’ as he dubbed it himself, was designed to signal a new era in his relationship with Israel’s 21% Arab minority and create momentum for his fourth reelection bid in less than two years. His lines were at once cynical and historic. The man who repeatedly incited against the Arab population, questioned their loyalty to the state and warned about their electoral power was now standing before them asking for their support.”

And Nazareth Mayor Ali Salem, in accordance with Mualem, was “clearly awed” by Netanyahu and the fanfare of the go to. “No one has done what the prime minister has done,” he mentioned. “We have never had it as good as we have now. … You look out for all the residents. And in the middle of this mess, you make peace, and peace is a good thing. I promise you we will support you so that you can continue giving.”

Joint List on the precipice

“It is too early to say whether Netanyahu can pick up two or three Knesset seats from Arab voters on March 23, but he has clearly presented the Joint List with the greatest challenge since its inception in late 2014,” Mualem writes. “He correctly identified the disappointment of its constituents who realized that the unprecedented power they handed their lawmakers has been meaningless in terms of political influence and impact on their lives. Violent crime is ravaging entire Arab communities, as is the coronavirus, and to top it all, Netanyahu has pulled off historic peace and normalization agreements with Arab and Muslim states, refuting the paradigm of peace with the Arab world only following peace with the Palestinians.”

There is little question that Israel’s normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan have rattled the Joint List’s constituency. Israeli Arabs have welcomed the opening and connection, as Afif Abu Much defined on the “On the Middle East” podcast, whereas the Joint List voted towards the normalization offers.

“The grim polling that give the Joint List only 10 or 11 seats in the next Knesset, compared to 15 in the previous elections, is undoubtedly a catalyst for the Jewish parties’ courting of the Arab vote,” Abu Much concludes. “However, the question remains whether the Arab public will forget its treatment by the Jewish parties in previous elections.”