Opinion

The Leadership Gap Among Israeli Arabs

Two-thirds of Haifa’s Arabs rejected the communist-front party led by Raja Za’atry, and didn’t want him as deputy mayor

Arab city council member Raja Zaatry from Hadash, December 2018.
Rami Shllush

Raja Za’atry, the leader of Haifa’s Palestinian communist party Hadash, basked in a moment of glory after the ill-advised decision by Haifa’s newly-elected mayor, Einat Kalisch-Rotem, to appoint him as deputy mayor. She was under the impression that he represented Haifa’s Arab population and that they shared his support for the terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah who have pledged to bring about Israel’s destruction. He eagerly accepted this role as representative of Haifa’s Arab population, though as he well knows this is not the way he is seen by most of Haifa’s Arab residents.

Most communist parties have disappeared from the world stage in recent years, but the Palestinian communists continue to hold on, well-organized and manipulative. They support Palestinian terrorism, as well as Bashar Assad in Damascus and his allies, Hezbollah and the Iranian ayatollahs.

Is there any reason to believe that the majority of Haifa’s Arabs support these views and that the local communist leader should therefore be Haifa’s deputy mayor? Or that many of them would like to see Haifa turned into another Beirut or Damascus?

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Twenty percent of Haifa’s population is Arab. It is a city famous for years for peaceful co-existence between its Jewish and Arabs residents. About a third of Haifa’s Arab residents are Muslims and are unlikely to be counted among the supporters of the Haifa Front, the communist-led party cobbled together by Raja Za’atry for the municipal elections. It attained 6.7 percent of the municipal vote, or approximately one third of the votes cast by Arab citizens in the Haifa elections. The rest obviously rejected the communist-front organization led by Za’atry, and do not look to him or his associates to protect their interests in the city. 

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What happened in Haifa is typical of the success the Palestinian communists are having in creating the impression that they represent Israel’s Arab citizens and that they all share their radical views. It is making a negative impression on many of Israel’s Jewish citizens and can only increase tensions between Jews and Arabs in Israel. 

The latest increase in the parliamentary threshold gave them a great boost, allowing them to present contrasting Arab ideological positions (communist, Nasserist, Islamist) under one roof, giving the impression that these positions were somehow shared by all Arab citizens. It was the law of unintended consequences at work again.

What was advertised as a move to increase the stability of Israel’s parliamentary system created the most unstable coalition government in Israel’s political history. And worse by far, it created the impression that Israel’s Arab citizens had only a single choice when it came to voting for the Knesset. The possibility of a moderate Arab party making it into the Knesset has come close to zero.

The recent municipal elections in the Arab sector seem to indicate that Balad, the most extreme anti-Israel component of the (Arab) Joint List, is losing ground and may disappear from the Israeli political scene, and thus possibly contribute to the dissolution of the Joint List. 

The contrast between the successful integration of many of Israel’s Arab citizens in the Israeli economy and society and the anti-Israel rhetoric of the Arab political parties that claim to represent them seems too great to last. In time it is bound to affect the Arab representation on the Israeli political scene.

Two-thirds of Haifa’s Arabs rejected the communist-front party led by Raja Za’atry, and didn’t want him as deputy mayor.