Meretz Slams Arab Joint List Over Failed Votes Accord

After parties fail to reach surplus-vote agreement, MK Issawi Freij says Joint List fears Meretz as alternative for Arab voters.

Yaron Kaminsky

Two key Meretz Party members, Chairwoman Zehava Galon and MK Issawi Freij, on Sudnay attacked the Joint List for blocking an effort to create a surplus-vote agreement between the two parties.

Such an agreement could have given the center-left bloc in the elections one or two additional seats in parliament. But on Friday, representatives of the Joint List — which includes the Arab parties and Hadash — said the party would not sign a surplus-vote agreement with any party.

By law, two parties can agree to combine their surplus votes. These are votes that a party receives but that are not enough to qualify for a full Knesset seat.

If two parties combine their surplus votes, that total might be enough to qualify for a Knesset seat. In such a case, that seat goes to the party that contributed the larger number of surplus votes.

“Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint List, angered me when he described the Arab vote that does not go to the [Joint] List as contaminated,” Freij, who is No. 3 on Meretz’s list for the March 17 election, said. “We are not friends. I am free and have the right to vote. My vote is not contaminated.”

Freij said “those who are fleeing to the extremes and not telling the truth because of their narrow interests annoy me.

“The truth behind the Joint List’s refusal [to sign a surplus-vote agreement] is that they are cowards. They are afraid of the alternative that exists today in the Arab public.

“Meretz has won support everywhere in the Arab public as an alternative, and I feel it and see it. They are afraid to go for a surplus-vote agreement and do not want to grant legitimacy for an alternative, since” voters will leave the Joint List parties.

“I am not a Zionist and cannot be a Zionist,” he said. “I am an Israeli in an Israeli party where everyone defines themselves however they want. I am a member of the Palestinian people. Today my country is fighting my people and I aspire to be a bridge.”

Joint List hiding Khenin?

Freij also said the Joint List was hiding its one Jewish candidate, Dov Khenin of Hadash.

“Why is it selling itself as a national camp? What is the national camp?” he asked. “I am going to the Knesset of Israel, not the Knesset of Palestine. The separatism we are hearing is spin and not the truth.”

Meretz and the Zionist Union ultimately signed a surplus-votes agreement, while the Joint List and Yesh Atid were left with no such accord.

The two parties’ failure to sign these agreements may cost the center-left bloc one or two seats in the next Knesset.

Galon said Sunday that the Joint List’s refusal to sign a surplus-votes agreement with Meretz “proves that the List failed the ultimate test for partnership. Despite the voices heard from it recently, at the moment of truth they allowed their nationalist foundations to dictate their path - nationalism and separatism instead of cooperation.

“Meretz has proved that it is the only party that believes in true Jewish-Arab solidarity. I hope that this isn’t the decision that will condemn us to another four years of [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s rule.”