Joint List Faces Crisis of Voter Confidence Over Nation-state Law

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Israeli MK Ahmad Tibi of the Joint List and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein of the Likud party held a special Knesset session on national law.
Israeli MK Ahmad Tibi of the Joint List and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein of the Likud party held a special Knesset session on national law.Credit: Noam Rivkin Fenton

Although early elections were avoided this week, the awareness that the next scheduled general elections is just a year away has begun to awaken Israel’s political arena.

The country’s Arab community, like others, is getting into gear for the campaigns that are sure to come.

The Arab parties believe that a major issue at the ballot box will be a crisis of confidence over the recently passed nation-state law, which their voters see as a tool to relegate Arab Israelis to second-class citizenship.

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The Joint List believes its component parties will also have to persuade many supporters to vote, period.

About a month ago, a committee set up before the last Knesset election convened a meeting of the Joint List’s four component parties. Ta’al, headed by MK Ahmad Tibi, did not attend, claiming that the committee did not reflect the spirit in the Arab community and had no authority to build the roster.

Haaretz has learned that representatives of the three factions who attended the meeting agreed in principle to move ahead on building the roster, each with its own criticism about the way things were handled in the current term, in particular disagreement over rotation.

The disagreement was sparked by the resignation and subsequent conviction of former MK Basel Ghattas, which led to the resignation of five MKs within a year. The disagreement made a poor impression over Joint List voters who seek a unified front in the party, particularly middle-class and more educated voters.

The Arab community has also seen that despite a voting bloc of 13 Knesset seats, the passage of laws perceived as detrimental to Israel’s Arabs and to the Palestinians in general, such as the nation-state law, cannot be prevented. This has led to a more intensive call this time to boycott the voting.

“The last time we were told to sit quietly because we had managed to cooperate, and give this historic move in Israeli politics a chance, and everybody pushed for it, even in the Palestinian leadership. This time it won’t work,” one supporter of an election boycott said.

But the issue of participation in the elections is taking a back seat to the looming crisis around the building of the roster and who will lead it.

Apparently, despite the contentiousness, the Joint List will persist, albeit with changes in leadership.

>> Read more: In Israeli Arab Local Elections, New Faces Fail to Overtake Clan Loyalties | Analysis 

The United Arab List — in effect, the southern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel — decided that Dr. Mansour Abbas will replace MK Masud Ganaim, who is retiring, as party chairman, and that the party’s three other representatives will remain on the roster.

In Hadash a struggle is expected mainly for the Joint List Chairman, MK Ayman Odeh, who will have to prove his leadership abilities.

Challenges are also expected in Balad, especially for two of its representatives, MKs Jamal Zahalka and Haneen Zoabi, who will need to garner 60 percent of the votes in the party’s central committee to win a place on the roster.

Mazen Ganaim, who recently lost the mayoral race in Sakhnin, reportedly might run for a seat representing Balad. He declined to respond to a question from Haaretz on the matter.

Sources in Ta’al said they were busy building their list; MK Tibi told Haaretz Ta’al was certain it could pass the voter threshold even if it ran independently.

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