Israeli Arab Balad Party Picks New Election Slate After High-profile Resignations

Mtanes Shehadeh elected chairman after winning by a margin of just 12 votes ■ Former MK Jamal Zahalka: Arab public will punish those who will cause splitting of Joint List

Balad Chairman Mtanes Shehadeh in Nazareth, Israel, February 2, 2019.
Abdullah Shama

Mtanes Shehadeh was elected Balad chairman on Saturday, after winning by a margin of just 12 votes over Ashraf Kortam in the second round of primaries.

Activist Heba Yazbak came in the second slot, and former mayor of Sakhnin Mazen Ghanayem in the third. It was a major change for Balad, whose veteran lawmakers Jamal Zahalka and Haneen Zoabi announced they will not be running for reelection.

After winning, Shehadeh said that the party is "freshening up" and that he will lead Balad by "sticking to its principles, maintaining its Palestinian identity and working towards full equality for Arab citizens of Israel." He added that if it would be impossible to keep the current configuration of the Joint List political alliance of Arab-majority parties, "Balad will call for new alliances, stronger and more ideological."

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Earlier, outgoing MK Jamal Zahalka criticized MK Ahmad Tibi for splitting his party, Ta'al, from the Joint List. "The Arab public will punish those who will cause the splitting of The Joint List, ignoring the public's desire to continue with party unity."

Haneen Zoabi announced earlier this month that she is resigning after 10 years in office. According to Zoabi, she has been subject to “character assassination, ongoing incitement, unceasing attempts to make me disappear, to silence me, disqualify me and distance me from the political arena.” She added that the time has come to change her place for the sake of a stronger Palestinian generation