Arabs ‘will be invited’ to form next Israeli government, says Arab MK

“We know that such a meeting will come soon,” Arab MK Ahmad Tibi told the Ynet news outlet.

By World Israel News Staff  

MK Ahmad Tibi, a leading member of the Joint List of predominantly Arab non-Zionist parliamentarians, says his bloc is to be invited to talks on forming a new Israeli government that would be headed by MK Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White faction.

“We will be invited,” Tibi told Israeli Kan public radio.

“We know that such a meeting will come soon,” he told the Ynet news outlet.

The Joint List won 13 seats in the 120-member Knesset in the September 17 parliamentary election, making it the third-largest faction, after Blue and White’s 33 and the Likud’s 32 mandates.

Most of the list – which incorporates four parties – endorsed Gantz for the post of prime minister in a meeting that took place with President Reuven Rivlin following the September election.

Non-Zionist Arab parties have never officially joined an Israeli government.

However, in the 1990s, Arab MKs agreed to support then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin without joining his cabinet.

They provided what was referred to as a safety net, guaranteeing that the Rabin government coalition would have a majority of votes which took place in the Knesset in exchange for the government’s promotion of causes important to these parties, relating to the Israeli-Arab sector and the peace process with the Palestinians.

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As in the case of the Rabin coalition, Gantz runs the risk of becoming a minority government. Even with the support of the Joint List, the Blue and White leader is seen as having only 57 MKs in his camp.

One option discussed is that Israel Beiteinu’s eight parliamentarians, headed by former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, would neither join the opposition nor the coalition.

“If you’re talking about 57 against 55 [MKs], that’s not a minority,” Tibi told Ynet. But that option “hasn’t been presented to us officially,” he added.

Such a move would be highly ironic because Liberman has referred to various Arab MKs as a “fifth column,” questioning their loyalty to Israel as the Jewish State.

There is a feeling in political circles that Liberman is leaving that possibility open in order to scare the Likud, headed by incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, into agreeing to join a national unity government with Blue and White.

Gantz is to receive the nod on Wednesday from the president to try to form a government after Netanyahu returned the mandate, having failed in his efforts to build a parliamentary coalition.