Hoping to Thwart New Political Initiative, Israel's Arab Parties to Announce Joint Knesset Run

High-paced negotiations between representative of four parties expected to be completed within two weeks, senior official says

Hadash-Ta'al's Ahmad Tibi and Ayman Odeh at a campaign event in Tel Aviv, June 2, 2019.
Meged Gozani

The four Arab-majority parties in Knesset – Hadash, Ta’al, Balad and United Arab List – are expected to announce a joint run in Israel's September 17 election within the next couple of weeks, senior Hadash offical told Haaretz Wednesday.

The parties have accelerated their negotiations in recent days, in the hope of thwarting any new Arab political initiatives. Party representatives held discussions on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, with the aim of wrapping up negotiations within days.

Running together as the Joint List brought them success in the 2015 election but they broke apart ahead of last April’s election, and collectively won fewer Knesset seats. For the September election, the four parties have already agreed on how the first 10 slots will be filled, and are now mainly discussing the 11th-14th slots. 

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Meanwhile, a new Arab party is also expected to be registered in the coming days, says As’ad Ghanem, a professor of political science at Haifa University. Ghanem says the new party is not related to the initiative that was reported by Haaretz, in which certain Palestinian Authority officials were trying to promote a political alliance between Arabs and Jews.

Ghanem says the new Arab party will include Arab representatives from all over Israel, with the aim of presenting Arab voters with an alternative. However, he also says the new party would not rule out a merger with the Joint List if agreement were reached on representation and a work plan.

“The Arab public desires new leadership,” says Ghanem. “We believe this framework will meet that need.”

Hadash general secretary Mansour Dahamshe told Haaretz that the intensive talks among the four established parties should conclude with an agreement for a resumed merger within 10 days to two weeks.

UAL officials expressed optimism regarding the progress of the talks and confirmed that the aim is to announce the re-formation of the Joint List very soon. Balad and Ta’al are not yet saying that the talks are nearing a conclusion, only that they are hopeful the parties will all come to an agreement.  

Sources say the parties’ representation on the Joint List will be based on the results of the last election, in which Hadash-Ta’al won six seats and Ra’am-Balad won four. For this reason, there are no major disagreements over the representation on the first 10 slots of the new list. Balad and Ta’al are trying to get a third representative on the list, and Hadash seeks to place its Druze candidate, Jabir Asaqla, who did not make into the Knesset in the last round, in a realistic spot this time. Ta’al also hopes to have a woman fill one of these places on the list (its candidate would be Sundus Saleh), and another demand is to ensure that one of these slots is reserved for a representative of the Negev.

Also being addressed in the talks is better cooperation among activists, to try to get past resentments that arose as a result of the dismantling of the Joint List. The parties all agree on the need to immediately improve relations among the party activists in order to project optimism to their electorate and get people to come out and vote.

There have been growing calls among Arab social activists and intellectuals for new figures to be included in the new Joint List, as many Arab citizens have lost faith in the current representatives, which was one factor behind the relatively low turnout in the April vote.