Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu greets supporters in Tel Aviv on election night in April 2019. (Amir Levy/Getty Images)

The Challenge of ’48 Palestinians in the Israeli Elections

Al-Araby al-Jadeed, London, April 15

Several questions emerged in the aftermath of the April 9 Israeli parliamentary elections, when the number of seats garnered by Arab parties significantly declined in comparison to the previous vote. One of the main questions relates to the future of the Palestinians who live within the 1948 borders. Despite entering the Israeli political arena in 1977, Arab parties have not been able to realize the hopes of the Arab minority –neither on the economic or political justice front. Since 1948, successive Israeli governments have sought to sever the Arab minority’s connection with its Arab surroundings, while attempting to assimilate and integrate them into Israeli society. They tried to make the Druze and Circassians separate nationalities; imposed compulsory service in the Israeli army in 1958; tried to differentiate between Arab Muslims and Christians; and divided Christians into eastern and western communities as well as Muslims into different sects. The last decade has witnessed intensive settlement activity in all of the historic lands of Palestine, whether in the Galilee, the Negev Desert or the West Bank. Jerusalem, too, has been witnessing intense settlement activity, especially in the Arab neighborhoods, for the purpose of Judaizing and imposing an Israeli order on the Palestinian population. It is noteworthy that, despite the 70 years since the establishment of Israel, its institutions could not impose the Jewish demographic reality in absolute terms, since Arabs constitute about 20 percent of the total population of Israel (not to mention the 1.7 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank). And despite rising from 151,000 in 1948 to about 1.5 million today, Israel’s Palestinian population has only gained 3% of the land on which Israel was established. Therefore, there is considerable and extensive Israeli pressure on the Arab minority to assimilate into the Jewish majority. The recent Israeli election campaign included slogans and speeches calling for legislation that would marginalize the Arab minority. Israeli officials went further by calling for the expulsion of the Arab minority, a sign that Israeli racism is becoming worse than ever before. There are challenges facing the Palestinians in the wake of the elections for the 21st Knesset: namely, the possibility of an accelerated package of racist laws against them, especially as the next Israeli government will be more right-wing, armed with the absolute support of the Trump Administration. –Nabil al-Saheli

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