After Alliance Splits, Arab Parties in Israel Considering Running as Two Separate Slates

One possibility is Hadash and Balad joining forces while United Arab List joins Ahmad Tibi for Knesset election

File photo: Members of the Joint List, in the Knesset, Jerusalem, 2017.
Emil Salman

The leaders of the Joint List alliance of Arab-majority parties are considering running under two separate joint slates in the upcoming election. MK Ahmad Tibi's Ta'al party would join forces with the United Arab List, and the Hadash and Balad parties would run together on a separate list.

The proposal arose amid fears that Tibi's withdrawal of Ta'al from the Joint List would reduce the total number of Knesset seats the Arab parties could win in the April 9 election.

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Leading activists in the parties making up the Joint List have said the proposal came up in internal discussions, but no plan has been reached yet.

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The chairman of the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee, Mohammed Barakeh, confirmed to Haaretz that the party leaders are devoting most of their efforts to maintaining unity between the three remaining parties in the Joint List. However, he said that he does not see a situation where the three parties (Hadash, Balad and United Arab List) run together against Ta'al.

A senior official in the Islamic Movement said that the fragmentation of the Joint List may well lead to further splits and mergers that have yet to be revealed to the public. He said they are still examining their options and have “a responsibility to our public and Arab society in general.”

Balad and Hadash will finalize their slate of Knesset candidates this weekend. At the same time, the two parties are still, together with the UAL, working within the framework of the Joint List. A senior Balad official said the parties could pair up, two by two, and this option will be discussed after the internal party elections are completed.

Ayman Odeh, the chairman of the Joint List and also Hadash, is contending for the top slot on the party slate once again. Running against him is the deputy mayor of Nazareth, Shukri Awawdeh, and the head of the Mossawa Center, Jafar Farah. Odeh has told close colleagues that he is certain of his victory, but he wants to cement his position as party head with a big win.

Balad will hold its primary on Saturday. This past Sunday, the party’s election committee officially approved the candidates. After two of Balad’s three Knesset members, Haneen Zoabi and Jamal Zahalka, announced they are not running for reelection, 16 new candidates are competing for 5 places on the party slate. The candidates for the head of Balad are Ashraf Kortam, who has been a member of the party since its earliest days and was an advisor to former Balad leader Azmi Bishara; Dr. Metanes Shehadeh, the secretary general of Balad for the past two years; MK Jouma Azbarga and Rabia Eid.

At the beginning of January, Tibi submitted a request to the chairman of the Knesset House Committee to allow Ta’al to split off from the Joint List. Tibi decided to leave after multiple attempts to introduce a new system of open primaries for the Joint List, or alternatively choosing the Knesset slate based on opinion polls. Tibi feels Ta’al is underrepresented on the Joint List, but the other three Arab parties refused to cooperate with Tibi’s proposals.