Opinion

The Day Arabs Will Go to the Polls in Droves

The road to defeating the supporters of segregation in Afula and in the Knesset runs through the Jerusalem mayoralty

File photo: An Arab Israeli woman casts her vote at a polling station in the coastal city of Haifa, on March 17, 2015.
AFP

There’s no point trying to wake the conscience of Israelis. The guys are all tripping out. After nine years or 20 (who bothers to count anymore?) of mainlining Benjamin Netanyahu, they decided to mix their drugs and began snorting Donald Trump as well. It’s a historic cocktail with manic-messianic effects, and there’s no telling how long it will take to get clean, assuming it’s even possible.

What can you tell the residents of Afula who demonstrated last week against the sale of a home in the city to an Arab family that they don’t already know? What unique effect could an additional beam of Tel Aviv light have on the darkness of Israeli time? After all, while privatization in Israel is celebrated, conscience has been nationalized. Today there is no address, neither in the street nor in the government, for wake-up calls to the conscience. What do Tel Avivians know about the challenges of Jewish-Arab coexistence, anyway, the people in Afula will justifiably say.

>> The time Jerusalem's mayor tried to convince Arafat to get Palestinians to vote

So what should be done? Netanyahu has the solutions. When he believed he was on his political deathbed, he revealed the only real threat to the right-wing government: “Arab voters are going to the polls in droves.” All that’s needed is to listen to him; to topple the right-wing government, Arabs must start voting in droves. If there’s such a thing as “diplomatic terror,” why not launch some “democratic terror?”

There’s no better place to start than Jerusalem, where Arabs make up 40 percent of the population and have the right to vote for mayor and the city council. This is not a patronizing call asking Arabs to vote for Zionist Union. The road to defeating the supporters of segregation in Afula and in the Knesset runs through the Jerusalem mayoralty.

Since 1967 the Palestinians have boycotted local elections in the city; in the most recent of these, fewer than one percent of eligible Palestinian voters participated. Calls encouraging participation have met with opposition from the Palestinian leadership in Jerusalem, and candidates were threatened. Many believe that voting in Jerusalem constitutes acceptance of the occupation and annexation of the city and contributes to normalization. The issue is echoed on the national level, where the Arab parties are never part of a ruling coalition.

Netanyahu tried to shirk the allegations of Election Day incitement, and his government allocated between 12 billion and 15 billion shekels ($3.33 billion to $4.16 billion) to Arab communities. The outgoing director of the Authority for Economic Development of the Arab Sector, Ayman Saif, explained: “This is a continuing contradiction: the nationality and muezzin laws on the one hand, and Cabinet Resolution 922 on the other,” (TheMarker, May 26). But when you think about it from Netanyahu’s perspective, it’s not a contradiction; it’s hush money.

Political activists Gershon Baskin (the chairman of the Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information) and Aziz Abu Sarah (the former chairman of the Parents Circle Families Forum) have said they plan to run in the next Jerusalem election, representing a joint Jewish-Palestinian list. Writing on the (Hebrew) website Siha Mekomit, Meron Rapoport describes the negative reactions to the attempt to break the Palestinian election boycott.

“There will never be an Arab mayor here, but if there is an Arab deputy or two, it will only do the city and them good,” Jerusalem Affairs Minister and mayoral candidate Zeev Elkin told me.

I told Elkin that when I related to MK Ahmad Tibi that he himself had been mentioned as a potential mayoral challenger, Tibi had laughed and asked me, “Why settle for mayor if you can be prime minister?”

Tibi’s kind laughter won’t wipe the arrogant smile from the right’s racist face. But I have a feeling that an Arab being elected as Jerusalem’s mayor could do it.