Elections Update: Arab parties and candidates on final polit...

Elections Update: Arab parties and candidates on final political lists

February 12, 2021

Media imageThursday, February 4th, marked the deadline for registration of political parties running in March elections, setting the seal on any potential new political unions and ratifying others' splits. A total of 39 parties registered with the Central Elections Committee, but only about a dozen hold a real chance to pass the threshold and enter the next Knesset.

This election has seen unprecedented outreach by Jewish-led parties to Arab voters, resulting both in a high number of Arab candidates across political parties, as well as a splintering of the Joint List, which has represented Arab society in recent years. Therefore, while new Arab lists and candidates are entering the field, the overall representation of Arabs in the Knesset is expected to decrease.  

Arab-led Parties: The Joint List, Ra’am and Ma’an 

The Joint List (the alliance of four ideologically diverse Arab-led parties) splintered due to internal tensions. Mansour Abbas' Ra'am (UAL - United Arab List), representing the religiously conservative Islamic Movement, will run on its own while the three other parties - Hadash (led by Ayman Odeh), Ta'al (led by Ahmad Tibi), and Balad (led by Sami Abu Shehadeh) will continue running together as the Joint List. A potential schism was predicted for several weeks, primarily due to Ra’am’s willingness to collaborate with Netanyahu and strong disagreement among Joint List parties regarding legislation on LGBTQ rights. Analysts predict that this development will decrease Arab representation in the Knesset, both due to a decrease in Arab voter turnout and because Ra’am may not gain enough votes to pass the 3.25% electoral threshold to enter the Knesset. The Joint List, which currently has 15 seats, is now predicted to win 9-10

Joint List Canidates: 

1. Ayman Odeh (Hadash) 

2. Ahmad Tibi (Ta’al) 

3. Sami Abu Shehadeh (Balad) 

4. Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash) 

5. Osama Saadi (Ta’al) 

6. Ofer Cassif (Hadashh) 

7. Heba Yazbak (Balad) 

8. Yousef Jabareen (Hadash) 

9. Joumah Azbarga (Balad) 

10. Sondos Saleh (Ta’al) 


Ra’am Canidates:  

1. Mansour Abbas 

2. Mazen Ghanaim 

3. Walid Taha 

4. Said al-Harumi 

5. Iman Khatib-Yasin 

Ma'an (together), a new Arab party established by Mohammad Darawashe, is running in the elections for the first time with an aim to partner with center-left Jewish parties. It is not expected to gain enough votes to pass the electoral threshold. 

Arab candidates in Jewish-led political parties 

From Likud, to Meretz, Jewish political parties have included Arab candidates on their lists, reflecting the shifting role of the Arab electorate in Israeli politics.  The parties made a range of choices regarding how high on their lists to place the Arab candidates, which determines the likelihood that they will actually have a seat in the Knesset following the election. 

  • Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud (predicted to win around 30 seats) placed school principal Nail Zoabi, its first Muslim candidate, 39th on its list.  Netanyahu promised to appoint him as Minister for Advancing Arab Communities, which would be a new position.   

  • Yair Lapid’s center or center-left party, Yesh Atid, (predicted to win around 17 seats) placed Ibrahim Kassem, a longtime political figure, 26th on its list. 

  • New Hope (predicted to win around 14 seats) is a new right-wing political party formed by Gideon Sa’ar and other MKs who left Likud and Blue and White. It placed Saher Ismail, a Druze businessman, 17th on its list.

  • Labor (predicted to win around 6 seats), Israel’s historically dominant left-wing party, selected Ibtisam Mara’ana, a well-known film director and producer, for the 7th spot on its list. 

  • Yisrael Beiteinu (predicted to win 6-7 seats), a secular right-wing party, placed Hamad Amar, a longtime Druze MK for the party, in the 6th spot.  

  • The left-wing progressive party Meretz (predicted to win around 6 seats) has historically attracted a fair amount of Arab votes, not least due to its longtime Arab member MK Issawi Frej. This year, it added Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, a civil society leader and shared society activist, in its 4th spot, with Frej in its 5th.  

  • Benny Gantz’ centrist Blue and White (predicted to win around 4 seats) placed Mufid Mari, former mayor of the Druze town of Hurfeish, 9th on its list. 

  • New Economic Party (not predicted to pass the election threshold), a new economy-focused party founded by Yaron Zelekha, former placed Alean El-Krenawi, a Ben Gurion University professor, 4th on its list. 

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