Joint Arab List may return for September elections

The Joint Arab List may return in September as Arab parties look to block other initiatives.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

The four-party coalition that had made up the now defunct “Joint List,” an alliance of Arab parties that competed successfully in the 2015 elections only to break apart prior to this past April’s vote, are looking to unite again, Ha’aretz reports, quoting an unnamed official of one of the parties.

The four Arab parties – Hadash, Ta’al, Balad and the United Arab List – will announce a new joint list soon, the official said, which will compete in the September 17 elections.

Israeli-Arabs scored better when united. In 2015, they won 13 seats, becoming the third-largest faction in the Knesset and winning 82 percent of the Arab vote. In 2019, after the party split into two factions, the Arab vote garnered only 10 seats.

One of the motivations for reuniting is to prevent other Arab initiatives, Ha’aretz reports. It cites one effort by a professor of political science at Haifa University, As’ad Ghanem, to form a new Arab party.

“The Arab public desires new leadership,” Ghanem told the paper. “We believe this framework will meet that need.”

Another initiative announced Wednesday is the bid by two Meretz members, one Arab, one Jewish, to lead the extreme left-wing party. MK Issawi Frej and former lawmaker Mossi Raz say they are looking to bring a “shared Arab-Jewish leadership.”

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“The Israel left needs hope in the form of true Jewish-Arab partnership. The Arab public gave its trust to Meretz in the last election and now we must strengthen the partnership by building a strong and influential Jewish-Arab left,” Frej posted to Facebook.

Leaders of the Arab parties fought an uphill battle in the last elections due to a loss of faith in their leadership, indifference by Arab voters and calls by some to boycott the Israeli elections.

Although Israeli polls badly missed in other cases, they more or less correctly estimated the election results of the two Arab lists, giving Hadash-Ta’al seven Knesset seats (it won six) and the Balad-United Arab List four, which was in fact the result.

Due to the extreme views held by the Arab parties, Israel’s Central Elections Committee banned the Balad-United Arab List from running. The ban was quickly overturned by Israel’s Supreme Court, which also rejected a petition to ban Hadash-Ta’al.

Accusations of extremism carry weight. For instance, were Balad’s policies to be implemented it would likely mean the end of the Jewish state as it advocates a binational state instead, and proposes the creation of a Palestinian state in territories Israel won in the Six Day War.

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Similarly, the policy prescriptions of Hadash include the creation of a Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip and the right of return for Palestinian refugees. There is a general consensus within Israel’s political establishment, held by both right and left, that such a policy would quickly spell Israel’s demise as it would render the Jews a minority in their country.

The September elections were called when the Likud party under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership was unable to form a governing coalition despite the right-wing bloc winning a clear majority in April. It is the first time in Israel’s history that back-to-back elections are being held.