Israel Election: Political Power of Israel’s Arab Parties Poised to Drop Dramatically

Mansour Abbas' gamble of breaking with the Joint List doesn't seem to have panned out

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Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi of Meretz at a campaign event in Nazareth, last month.
Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi of Meretz at a campaign event in Nazareth, last month.Credit: Amir Levy

With all Election Day exit polls pointing to Mansour Abbas’ Islamist United Arab List (Ra’am) failing to enter the Knesset, the Arab community's representation in Israel’s parliament is expected to fall to a mere eight or nine seats – held by Ayman Odeh’s Joint List. 

Abbas, who is projected to not reach the electoral threshold of 3.25 percent of all votes, took a significant gamble with his decision to break with the conglomerate of four Arab parties. His loss means that Arab representation in the Knesset will drop by a third, a painful blow for a community battered by the coronavirus pandemic and surging gun violence

His failure appears to be directly connected to extremely low turnout by Arab voters. 

In the immediate aftermath of the exit polls, Abbas challenged their accuracy, insisting that when all of the votes are ultimately counted, he believed his party would win four seats, passing the 3.25 percent of the votes threshold to enter the Knesset. 

Next to the apparent Abbas defeat, there was good news for Arab representation in the Knesset: It appears that three Arab leaders will be entering the legislature as members of two center-left Zionist parties.

Ibtisam Mara’ana, No. 7 on the Labor Party list, is poised to enter the Knesset. Ma’arana overcame a challenge to her candidacy when the Supreme Court overruled a Central Elections Committee decision to disqualify her at the request of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party

In addition, Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi and Esawi Freige, Nos. 4 and 5 on Meretz’s roster, seem to be in a position to join Ma’arana in the Knesset. Their party’s showing in the exit polls surprised many who believed the party in danger of failing to reach the electoral threshold and facing possible erasure from the Knesset. Instead, it exceeded expectations by winning between six and seven seats, according to the exit polls.    

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