Israeli Arab Parties on Verge of Disbanding Alliance, Prepare to Run Separately in Election

A lack of trust and conflict between Hadash, Balad, United Arab List and Ta'al may lead the parties to stand apart in the face of the challenge of reaching the electoral threshold

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Elections in the Hadash party in the Arab city of Shfaram, February 1, 2019.
Elections in the Hadash party in the Arab city of Shfaram, February 1, 2019. Credit: Rami Chelouche
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

The four Arab parties in the joint Arab List are preparing to disband their association and run separately in the April election, as the negotiating teams for Hadash, United Arab List, Balad and Ta'al say the talks this weekend will be critical.

Separate runs would exacerbate the risk the parties, each on its own, won’t pass the 3.25 threshold seats in the next Knesset. But the parties have been riven by mutual distrust, and amid mutual accusations, are bracing to contend divided.

>>Read more: Arab MKs must not shy away from seeking power | Opinion

Feelers about Hadash and Balad joining forces and running together hit a dead end on Wednesday, sources told Haaretz. Hadash suggested that in a joint list, it would be on top, Balad would get the second and sixth positions, and the seventh position would rotate.

Balad demanded equal representation, a demand that Hadash categorically rejected. Compromises suggested to the two parties went nowhere, but the parties will be meeting again this weekend.

Hadash is prepared for all scenarios (including an alliance with new groups) but would prefer that the joint list forge on, says its secretary general, Mansour Dahamshe.

Meanwhile the Hadash party says it has reached an agreement in principle to join forces with Mada, the Arab democratic party headed by former MK Taleb el-Sana. Hadash sources believe the connection with Mada could attract thousands of Bedouin voters in the Negev.

Balad and United Arab List may also join forces and run together. There are some in United Arab List who want to ally with Ta'al led by Ahmad Tibi. But United Arab List’s leader, Mansour Abbas, and others are opposed to that idea, on the grounds that it would just reward Tibi for abandoning the Joint List. United Arab List is tending toward running solo or allying with Balad, if it agrees to forgo the top position.

Balad seems likely to do so, as it can’t run alone, with sources within the party saying that would be suicide.

Ta'al under Tibi is confident they will pass the threshold and make it into the next Knesset on their own, but they are examining various potential alliances, possibly with the party led by Nazareth mayor Ali Salam.

Ta'al and United Arab List both attract the same voters, say their people, making their alliance a natural one. But if United Arab List allies with Balad, it isn’t clear whether Ta'al or Hadash will also join, as their leaders (Tibi and Aymen Odeh) are in disagreement. Right now a four-way alliance seems unlikely.

The question remains whether the Arab community in Israel will boycott the general election scheduled for April 9, following enactment of the nation-state law and especially as the Joint List breaks down.

If each of the Arab parties runs alone, and focus on negative propaganda against each other, voting could drop below 50 percent, putting the parties at even greater risk of not gaining enough support to enter the Knesset.

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