Analysis

Israel Election Results: Arab Party Must Recommend Gantz, or Netanyahu Will Be Back

Gantz is the only choice — but the Joint List needs to make their recommendation conditional on the guarantee of real change for their constituency

Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh at the Hadash party council meeting in the northern city of Shfaram, Israel, February 1, 2019.
Rami Shllush

UPDATE: Joint List decides to back Gantz as prime minister

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 41Haaretz

So here's the list of candidates for prime minister in the wake of last week’s election: Benjamin Netanyahu or Benny Gantz. (Who is Benny Gantz? Meet the man who might be Israel's next prime minister)

Unfortunately, there’s no Nelson Mandela on the list; there isn’t even an F. W. de Klerk, the South African politician who opened the gate to reconciliation. It’s most regrettable, but we have to choose from what’s actually available, not from what exists in our imaginations.

Arabs have a saying for moments like these, junctures of their life filled with suffering and absurdity: “What drives you to the bitter choice is the even more bitter choice.” This should make things easier for our brethren in the Arab parties’ Joint List, who will meet on Sunday with President Reuven Rivlin

>> Read more: Netanyahu clings to power with bluff and bluster – but his days are numbered | Analysis ■ Israel needs a government that includes the Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox | Opinion ■ An Israeli problem | Editorial

But making that choice isn’t enough. The challenge for representatives of the Arab community and Jewish democrats alike is to find a way to move forward from the bitter place to a better place.

After all, the world changes, and so do we. In 1992, Knesset members from Hadash and the United Arab List backed Yitzhak Rabin, who wasn’t their cup of tea, as prime minister. This eventually led to the allocation of significant funds for the benefit of the Arab community - without mentioning the mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO, and the Oslo Accords.

The Arab community, which went to the polls in droves to support the Joint List, is a beaten community currently licking its wounds. Just this weekend, four young people were killed in violent incidents in various places around the country.

Israeli officials demolished 11 buildings put up without proper permits in the Israeli Arab city of Kalansua. January 10, 2017.
Moti Milrod

You, Joint List MKs, need to understand that if you don’t do everything in your power to deal with the crime issue, by making your recommendation for the next prime minister conditional on the adoption of a high-priority national crime-fighting plan, you will be betraying the trust of your voters.

If you don't use this power to derail the campaign of brutal destruction of more and more homes in Arab villages, under the so-called Kaminitz Law,  you’re betraying the trust the public gave you. If you don't play this card to alter the discriminatory and divisive nation-state law, you’re yet again betraying that trust.

The Joint List increased its standing at two key points during the election campaign. First when party chairman Ayman Odeh said he would be willing, under certain conditions, to support a Gantz government. And second when Netanyahu resumed his campaign of hatred against Arabs.

The Arab community doesn’t want Knesset representation solely for politicians to regurgitate learned speeches, or register vocal protests. They want their representatives to have an impact on their life, and on the nature of the country itself.

What about passing a law that would require every public broadcasting station, on both radio and television, to feature 20 percent Arab presenters? Really! Aren’t you tired, dear Arabs and Jews, of watching that great tribal celebration that are the three television stations devoid of Arabs?

The Joint List’s first aim, its slogan, was to oust Netanyahu. But at the moment, unless it recommends Gantz – subject to a list of justified demands, of course – that won’t happen. Netanyahu has 55 MKs willing to recommend him, whereas without the support of the Joint List’s MKs, Gantz will be left with only 44. The ball will find its way back into Netanyahu’s court.

Is that what you wanted when you badgered thousands of Arabs and Jews to go out and vote for you? Anyone who doesn’t recommend Gantz is ultimately recommending Netanyahu the inciter, the divider, the enemy of the Arabs and of every Jew with any democratic sensibility. Period.