Acre Riots Unlikely to Affect Haifa Elections

Haifa has 18,000 registered Arab voters, 10 percent of all eligible voters. Two Arab parties are participating in the current election campaign: Hadash (representing a joint Arab-Jewish list), which has two municipal councillors, and Balad, an Arab party that has one councillor and one mayoral candidate, Walid Hamis. This past weekend, the first after the Yom Kippur disturbances, no fallout from the Acre riots could be felt in the market of Haifa's Wadi Nisnas neighborhood, where the city's Jewish residents traditionally do their weekend shopping. Similarly, the riots do not seem likely to spark any major change in the voting patterns of Arab residents.

Most of Haifa's Arab residents live in the "lower city," and some of them live in mixed neighborhoods in the Carmel and Hadar districts. Unlike other mixed cities, where relations between Jews and Arabs are tense, there is no sign of such tension here in Haifa. Some argue that this is because the city's Arab residents hold central positions in City Hall and in Haifa's commercial and industrial sectors. For instance, one of the most powerful people in City Hall is the treasurer, who is Arab.

Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav is proud that a few months ago, he refused to receive MK Uri Ariel of the rightist National Union-National Religious Party. Ariel was touring the Hadar neighborhood in the wake of what he termed the "Arab takeover of Jewish neighborhoods."

Yahav's predecessors maintained the status quo in Haifa and prevented local tensions that could be detrimental to the "city's present and future," says Hadash leader Fitkhi Fourani, an author and educator as well as a candidate for a seat on Haifa's municipal council. Fourani believes that the Acre disturbances will have little impact on the elections in his city.