The Arab-Israeli public are tired of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign against them, tired of Israeli Politics and tired of unfulfilled promises…
Published on Al-Monitor, July 11, 2019
The September elections are drawing closer and opposition leader Benny Gantz is no closer to embracing the country’s Arab voters. His Blue and White Party slate for the 22nd Knesset does not include a single Muslim or Christian Arab among its dozens of candidates. The former army chief, who formed his centrist, liberal party in February in the runup to the April 9 Knesset elections, has still not realized that adopting an ‘’in between’’ approach (of avoiding significant decisions) and ignoring the state’s 21% Arab minority is not a recipe for election victory. That is certainly true when your rival is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will stop at nothing to achieve his goals, including the disbanding of a just-elected Knesset and scheduling new elections at a cost of billions of shekels to taxpayers — even as a cloud of potential corruption indictments hangs over his head.
Two important reinforcements for the repeat elections are bad news for Netanyahu. The first is former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, probably the only politician who can truly rile Netanyahu, make him sweat and send him continuously to Twitter’s front lines. The second new/old actor is the Joint Arab List — an alliance of four Arab parties (Hadash, Ta’al, Ra’am and Balad) planning a soon-to-be-announced comeback as soon as its members finish quarreling over the 11th to 14th slots on their candidate list.
Arab voters were clearly displeased with the Joint Arab List’s debut performance in the 20th Knesset and with its decision to disband ahead of the voting for the 21st Knesset in April, after spending an entire term involved in infighting and power plays. Many of the voters thus decided to stay home, issuing a yellow card to their home teams. They almost ousted the Ra’am-Balad list that ran together and barely garnered sufficient votes to get into the Knesset (garnering the minimal 4 seats to pass the Knesset-entry threshold). Slightly less than 50% of eligible Arab citizens voted April 9, giving their representatives the equivalent of 10 seats in the Knesset, compared with the 13 the Joint Arab List picked up in 2015. The result was an undoubtable warning, which the four parties heeded and decided to reunite at all costs.
Anyone familiar with developments in Israeli Arab society understands that the probable comeback of the Joint Arab List is not necessarily a magic bullet to get Arab voters rushing to the polling stations. Many are still angry at the Joint Arab List’s split earlier this year and at its members’ inability to compromise on the names of lower-ranked candidates whose chances of election are slim.