Elections update: Arab parties unite

Elections update: Arab parties unite

January 28, 2015

On Thursday, January 23rd, the two Arab and one Jewish-Arab parties (Ra'am-Ta'al, Balad and Hadash) announced a historic merger into a single united list. The merger took place as a result of the new electoral threshold (which increased the percentage of votes required to enter Knesset from 2 - 3.25%.)

Although there is widespread popular support for the merger and Arab voter turnout is expected to rise by as much as 10%, Arab citizens remain uncertain of what the joint list will be able to achieve. Many see the united list as a way to prevent the right-wing from winning the elections. Others are concerned the party will not be able to maintain unity due to the deep ideological differences within.

According to initial platform guidelines released on February 2nd, the united party is committed to and will pursue the rights of Arab citizens as a national and indigenous minority in the state of Israel; an end to the occupation, a just peace and the creation of Palestinian State; equal rights of Arab citizens; social justice and equal rights for all; solutions for poverty, unemployment and environmental protection; the rights of women; and the cultural and religious autonomy of Arab society in Israel as part of a multicultural democracy. The guidelines include specific mentions of the party's intention to work for the recognition of all Bedouin villages in the Negev, to bring an end to land confiscation and house demolitions, to work for the development of Arab towns and villages (for private housing as well as commercial development), and protect the standing of Arabic as a formal language in Israel.

While few expect the Arab list would join a government coalition, Israel’s Channel 10 reported that Labor leader Isaac Herzog approached Arab party leaders about joining a government he’d lead or supporting it from the sidelines to create the critical mass needed to deny Netanyahu a fourth term.

Outside of the joint Arab list, Arab candidates have been selected for realistic positions in mainstream and Jewish parties. MK Isawi Frej, who served as MK in the previous Knesset, was elected to the 3rd seat in Meretz' primaries. Zohair Bahaloul was elected for the 17th seat with the Zionist Camp, and MK Hamed Amer was nominated for seat number 6 with Yisrael Beytenu.

Further reading:

As Arab MKs unite, a new political landscape emerges - The Times of Israel - Areej Hazboun and Daniel Estrin – 1.28.15

Arab Lawmakers Shake Up Israeli Politics With Historic Union – NY Times – AP – 1.27.15

Analysis: Arab party unity deal will it last? - Jerusalem Post - Ariel Ben Solomon – 1.26.15

Who said a union of Israel's Arab parties is such a good idea? – i24News – Nazir Mgally – 1.27.15

The Arab parties united? Great, now it’s time to get to work - +972 Magazine - Samah Salaime Egbariya – 1.24.15

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The goal is to persuade the Arab public to participate in the democratic process.
See the first in a series of updates on key issues affecting Arab discourse and voter attitudes.