“Arabs’ Joint List Intends to Shake Up Israeli Elections”
The Washington Post, March 11 2015, p.A6
“A coalition of once fractious Arab parties is suddenly emerging as Israel’s newest power bloc, forcing the Jewish state to pay attention to its large Arab minority as never before. If polls taken ahead of next week’s general election are accurate, Arab Israelis could end up heading the third-largest political faction in Israel’s next parliament, giving a voice to the often-sidelined Arab population. It’s a remarkable twist of fate for Israel’s 1.7 million Arabs, who make up roughly 20 percent of the country’s population and have never had much political clout. … Ironically, the coalition is a result of a move last year to increase the minimum number of votes a party needs to secure a place in the 120-seat Knesset, Israel’s parliament. Some saw that change as an attempt to oust small Arab parties, but instead it prompted the fragmented and fairly powerless Arab leadership to unite under the banner of the Joint List. It remains to be seen whether the Joint List will wield significant power. Because of its objections to the Israeli government’s treatment of the Palestinians, it is unlikely to agree to become part of a ruling government coalition. It is also unlikely to be invited to join the government. … Dreams aside, Arab party candidates must confront multiple social and economic challenges inside their community and must also address threats from outside. … Last week, as part of the party’s campaigning, [Ayman] Odeh [head of Hadash, the largest group in the Arab coalition] met with the heads of the three other factions in Taybeh, a town of 50,000 Arabs that has seen a rise in gang violence and homicide. The day of the meeting, two men were shot in the street. The leaders signed a document pledging to fight the soaring crime rate among Arabs as soon as they enter the Knesset. All agreed that the issue was a high priority and said they would use the party’s newfound power to draw attention to Israeli Arabs’ plight, demanding greater budgets to fight crime, boost education and improve physical infrastructure.”
Quickie analysis: Good to see Israeli Arabs finally positioning themselves as a legitimate force in the voting booth.