Arab Parties Nearing Compromise in Resurrecting Joint List, but Bickering Continues

Most of the controversy revolves around spots 11-14 on the party slate; a new proposal includes a rotation system for these spots

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
Ahmad Tibi of Ta'al and Ayman Odeh of Hadash, Tel Aviv, March 14, 2019.
Ahmad Tibi of Ta'al and Ayman Odeh of Hadash, Tel Aviv, March 14, 2019.Credit: Meged Gozani
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

A week before the party slates for the Knesset must be finalized, the Arab parties are attempting to reach a compromise that will allow them to reunite and run as the Joint List. According to one proposal, there will be a rotation after the 10th spot on the list.

Last week, the reconciliation committee announced its failure to reach an agreement between the four Arab parties: United Arab List, Balad, Ta'al and Hadash. Most of the controversy revolves around spots 11-14 on the party slate, but representatives from the parties agreed to resume negotiations.

According to a source involved in the negotiations, the chairman of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee in Israel, the former head of Hadash Mohammad Barakeh and two academics who are well-respected in Arab society have joined the negotiations.

>> Read more: Israel's do-over election gives Arab parties an opportunity – one they're refusing to seize | Analysis

During the talks, a draft was presented in which there would be a rotation in effect for the spots beyond the 10th spot on the slate after two and a half years. If the Joint List wins 11 seats in the September 17 election, the lawmaker in the 11th slot will step down after two and a half years and will give his spot to the 12th spot lawmaker. If the party wins 12 seats in the election, the rotation will take place between the 12th and 13th spot. If the party wins 13 seats, the rotation will be between the 13th and 14th positions. If the party manages to win 14 seats in the upcoming election, there will be no rotation.

The suggested allotment of the 11-14th slots on the list, as presented by the reconciliation committee, would give United Arab List the 11th spot, Hadash the 12th spot, Balad the 13th spot and Ta'al the 14th spot.

The suggested agreement also addresses the positions of head of the party and deputy speaker of the Knesset, which will be split between the United Arab List and Ta'al. Ta'al will have first choice between the two positions.

This proposal has been discussed by representatives of the various parties, but an agreement has yet to be reached. The United Arab List objects to Saeed Alkharumi, who is currently third on their party slate, being placed in the 11th position of the Joint List slate. There are also members of Hadash who have expressed doubts about the agreement, and Balad continues to demand the number 12 slot.

Hadash and the United Arab List already agreed to the reconciliation committee's suggested compromise in the previous round of negotiations. The parties even announced their intention to rejoin the Joint List in an attempt to exert pressure on the other two parties. Wednesday night, progress was made when Ta'al announced that they were ready to join the Joint List according to the current draft of the agreement presented by the committee.

In this version, Ta'al will receive two seats in the first ten on the slate, as well as the chairmanship of the party. Ta'al called on the other parties to enter an emergency meeting to settle the composition of the slate and to take responsibility and be flexible in order to reach a solution.

Ahmad Tibi, head of Ta'al, told Haaretz that he accepts the reconciliation committee's proposal. With that, Tibi said he will enter into the fundamental agreement with Hadash and the United Arab list as a means of pressuring Balad to accept the proposal along with a promise of compensation in the Knesset committees.

A senior official in Balad told Haaretz that the party is checking the possibility of narrowing the rotation agreement to only include the 12th and 13th spots, and that those negotiations will take place between Balad and Hadash.

With that, members of Hadash claim that Balad is not united in their position. According to Hadash, there are forces in Balad that are pushing the party not to participate in the election, or to run on a separate slate, making it difficult to reach a single unified position.

Hadash and the United Arab List are not ruling out the possibility that Ta'al will join their slate and the three parties will run without Balad. However, they emphasize that the negotiations must be finalized.

Various sources involved in the talks have not hidden their disappointment in the proceedings. "Sometimes I feel like I'm a kindergarten teacher that needs to indulge the children's nonsense," one of them said.

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