Joint List Aims to Topple Netanyahu, Likud
Palestinian experts say Arab participation in election will ‘protect their existence and rights in Israel’
Arab communities, which account for about 20% of Israel’s population, were expected to see heavy participation in Monday’s snap election, the third in less than a year.
Arab legislators campaigned tirelessly in an effort to raise their representation in the Knesset in order to help topple Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his Likud party.
The Joint List, an alliance of four Arab parties that holds 13 of the 120 seats in the outgoing Knesset, believes that if it can raise its representation to 15 or even 16 seats, it will have a significant influence on Israeli politics.
“The more Arabs who vote, the greater their participation in the Knesset will be. We need every vote today, as each one is important in reaching 16 seats,” Aida Touma-Suleiman, a Joint List lawmaker, told The Media Line.
Arab participation was very important in helping the Joint List put an end to Netanyahu’s chances of forming the next government, she added.
“Today, history will record how the remaining Palestinian minority in Israel managed to end the political life of Netanyahu,” Touma-Suleiman prophesized. “The enthusiasm of the people is great.”
Dalal Iriqat, a leading Palestinian academic and columnist for the Al Quds newspaper, told The Media Line that if all of Israel’s Arab citizens were to vote for the Joint List, it would wield far more power.
“Today, if every Arab and Palestinian exercises their right to vote, it could take the Joint List to 26 seats, and this would change the political situation,” she said.
Iriqat believes that if the alliance succeeds in winning sufficient representation, the leaders of Zionist parties trying to assemble a government will have to reach an agreement with it.
“I think everyone should go and vote because increasing the number of the Arab Joint List’s seats is the only thing that is going to change Israeli politics and the Arab situation there,” she said. “Strategic thinking that guarantees change depends on the behavior of the Arab voter.”
Ghassan Toubasi, a Palestinian writer and political analyst, told The Media Line that Arabs needed to unite, as the Palestinian issue has been absent from the agenda of every Zionist party.
“It’s expected that 70,000 moderate Jews are going to vote for the Joint List, according to the Haaretz newspaper, because it included the Palestinian issue in its program,” he noted.
Toubasi says the only way for Arabs to prevent Israeli laws from discriminating against Palestinians is through representation in the Knesset.
“Israeli society is undergoing a process of radicalization, especially given [US President Donald] Trump’s support, which has made Israelis feel they are above every other nation in the region,” he said.
“The Joint List wants to win 15-16 seats, not to help [form] a government, but to prevent Netanyahu and his party from doing so after they [and their allies] don’t win the 61 seats” they need for a majority, he added.
Observers have noted increased electoral enthusiasm in Israel’s Arab communities because the Trump Administration’s peace plan, released on January 28, says the so-called Triangle area, a complex of Arab towns and villages adjacent to the Green Line, might become part of the future independent Palestinian state. Arab-Israelis in the area consider the proposal an attempt to strip them of their lands.
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), told The Media Line that in addition to the “so-called American peace plan,” several other things could increase Arab voter turnout.
“Chief among these factors is the desire to respond to the [Israeli] attempts to define Arabs racially, and to respond to the human engineering of ethnic cleansing against them,” Ashrawi said. “The Palestinian element [in Israel] is treated as a commodity; this constitutes a great provocation.”
She cites Netanyahu and “his hatred and racism, which have become hugely obvious. There is no longer a place for public discourse about dealing with the Palestinian minority, but rather about how to exclude them, neutralize them and position them as enemies.”
Moeen al-Hilu, a Gaza-based journalist for Palestine Television and an analyst of Israeli politics, told The Media Line that Arab participation in the Israeli election was of great importance in preserving their existence in Israel.
“What’s being suggested by the Israeli Right is to delegitimize them and ‘Judaize’ the state. Consequently, every Palestinian Arab vote matters,” he said.
The Joint List, he added, “could have an impact in preventing wars and military operations against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.”