The Arab Parties' Big Move |

Israeli Arabs Shouldn't Participate in a Fixed Political Game

The merger of all the Arab parties is welcome, but we already know what impact they will have in the next Knesset — and the one after that, too.

Jamal Abdo
 Joint List candidates during a news conference in Nazareth, Feb. 7, 2015.
Joint List candidates during a news conference in Nazareth, Feb. 7, 2015.Credit: Reuters
Jamal Abdo

Recently a telephone customer service rep holds a consultation, returns to the client and says, "Listen, Ahmed"

"I’m not Ahmed," I reply. "We’re not all called Ahmed."

This story describes the rationale behind the efforts of Yisrael Beitenu head Avigdor Lieberman and his associates to raise the electoral threshold so as to make it almost impossible for individual Arab parties to enter the Knesset. That led them to unite, and that’s exactly how Lieberman wants them: as always, on the margins and lacking any influence, but this time all the Ahmeds in one basket.

The merger in itself is welcome, on condition, of course, that it continues even after the election. I would like to see genuine, long-term unity, which would contribute to our daily struggle and have a positive effect on popular opposition to the next Prawer plan [the government plan to demolish 35 unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev and forcibly remove tens of thousands of Bedouin living in them.]

Now the question is whether this merger will tip the balance in favor of my participation in the Knesset election, and my unequivocal answer is no.

Over the years, from one election campaign to the next, the voting percentage among the Palestinians has steadily declined. According to the analyses of election results, in recent years it has hovered around 50 percent. Most of those who refrain from voting do so for ideological reasons or for lack of confidence in Israeli democracy. An even more interesting finding is that most of those who do vote do so only as a symbolic act, although they are convinced that their representatives will never have any real influence on the political game in the Knesset.

Participation in the Knesset election means, first and foremost, consent to the majority-minority game and its results, which as far as the Palestinians are concerned are fixed and predictable. But we don’t forget that the fact that we are a minority is no coincidence, but a result of ethnic cleansing carried out in 1948.

The facts that were established during that ethnic cleansing remain to this day, and they are the cornerstone of the political game we have been witnessing for over 60 years. So that there will be no fears regarding the results of the game in the future either, its organizers made sure to obligate the participants to recognize Israel in advance as having a Jewish majority (according to interpretations of Section 7(a) of the Basic Law on the Knesset).

If nevertheless anyone has any doubts, and is afraid that the increasing number of Palestinians will change anything, they can simply be thinned out – by giving up Umm al-Fahm, for example [as Lieberman proposes]. Is there any better description for this situation than a fixed game?

It’s not a matter of two more or two less Arab MKs, not a matter of one slate or four. The Arab MKs (all of them together or in their various factions) represent a public. They represent platforms and opinions for which they receive the votes of their electorate. The problem is that when they come to implement these positions in the Knesset, they will always encounter a solid wall of over 100 MKs in opposition to them. The problem is that Isaac (Bougie) Herzog will always be closer to Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu than to them. These basic facts will be in force for many years to come, long after Bibi and Bougie make way for their successors.

Therefore, as long as the game continues to be fixed, we are declining to participate in it.


The writer is an attorney.

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