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The debate in the Israeli Arab community on the question of boycotting the elections is growing in intensity. As of this week, all public debates between the two Arab and one Arab-Jewish party now include another participant arguing for a boycott.

The parties are choosing to address the question as the possibility of boycott looms increasingly large, especially in the wake of the Gaza war. Some forecast that a high enough number of boycotters may result in one of the three parties not passing the 2 percent election threshold and losing its Knesset seats altogether.

One such debate took place in Sakhnin Wednesday. The secretaries of Hadash, Balad and the United Arab List-Ta'al were joined on stage by Muhammad Kana'aneh, secretary of the Abna el-Balad ("Sons of the Land") movement that supports a boycott.

Kana'aneh told the audience that voting in the elections constitutes a complete recognition of the Zionist entity built on the ruins of Palestine. He went on to say that the Israeli establishment is utilizing the presence of Arab MKs to propagate its democracy, while in effect they have little influence.

"The Arab representation in parliament does not influence decision-making, but it allows the Zionists to boast Arab MKs, including a deputy-chairman of the Knesset and members of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee," Kana'aneh said.

The party officials opted for reminding the audience the history of the parties, and warning that their disappearance from parliament would leave it to the extreme right.

Balad secretary general Awad Abed El-Fatah said that the decision of Balad in 1996 to run in the elections was not viewed through the prism of recognition or non-recognition of the state of Israel, but rather in light of the importance of parliamentary politics in fighting discriminatory policies.

His counterpart from Hadash, Aiman Udeh, said: "We can't forget that while Israel always has a majority in the Knesset who vote for war, peace initiatives need the support of the Arab MKs."

Speaking for the Islamic Movement, its chairman Dr. Mansour Abbas said that reinforcing Arab presence in parliament could be an important instrument in the struggle to remove the inequality that has plagued Arabs in Israel since 1948.