Arab Party Activists Try to Block Palestinian Attempt to Influence Israeli Election

Palestinian Authority officials are spearheading talks to foster Jewish-Arab political cooperation, but activists are trying to revive the Joint List in order to stop them

Meretz's Tamar Zandberg and Ahmed Tibi of Ta'al in the Knesset, Jerusalem, December 2014.
Emil Salman

Activists of Arab Israeli parties are trying to put a halt to a Palestinian Authority attempt to influence the upcoming Israeli election. 

Haaretz reported Tuesday that the PA made efforts to encourage the establishment of an Israeli political outfit that would unite Arab and left-wing Jewish lawmakers. Now Israeli Arab activists are trying to speed up negotiations for the reestablishment of the Joint List in order to block such Jewish-Arab political cooperation.

>> Read more: Restore the Joint List | Editorial ■ Fearing election wipeout, Israeli parties on left and right talk mergers 

The PA is trying to foster Jewish-Arab political cooperation in Israel, either by setting up a new party or by bolstering the Meretz party. 

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reads a file during the Arab summit in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, May 31, 2019.
Reuters

The talks are being spearheaded by members of the PA’s Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society, headed by the confidant of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Muhammad Al-Madani. Officially, however, the committee denies any involvement in the issue.

Senior PA officials asked the committee for clarifications after the matter was revealed. A senior Arab political figure told Haaretz that after the talks were reported, Arab leaders spoke with key Palestinian political figures and expressed their reservations about the intervention.

“We made it clear that it is possible that the PA officials involved directly or indirectly in the move have good intentions, but the manner in which they are running things can only harm the two sides and will not achieve anything,” said the Arab politician. The senior PA officials made it clear that they will pass the message on to those who need to be informed, including Abbas' office.

In an attempt to promote the new cooperation between Arabs and Jews in Israeli politics, mayors, representatives of civil society and peace organization activists – some of whom are in regular contact with the Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society – met at Givat Haviva on Monday. The group is expected to meet again in the next few days to prepare a position on running in the September 17 election.

Former Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg, who is involved in the talks, told Haaretz the PA is not. Burg confirmed he is involved in the initiative, but did not attend the recent meeting at Givat Haviva. “I’m doing what I think is good for civil equality and true partnership. If this is good for the Palestinians, Europeans or Americans – even better,” said Burg.

“The need is for a framework built on true partnership, Jewish-Arab, that neither Meretz nor Hadash-Ta'al can provide. A framework that will create enthusiasm among the public, including the Arab community, to vote with enthusiasm and lead to change,” he added.

Burg and other activists said that even if other groups in the PA have shown interest in the process, they will not agree to any political involvement in the process by the Palestinians.