Editorial

Reconstruct the Joint List Now

Hadash-Ta'al co-leaders Ahmad Tibi and Ayman Odeh, and Hadash lawmaker Aida Touma-Suleiman at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, April 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

More than any poll or study, the results of the election for the 21st Knesset, which dissolved a month after it was sworn in, provide an up-to-date, reliable picture of the mood of the Israeli electorate. Parties that want to survive must seize this opportunity to learn from their mistakes and improve themselves before the next election, which will take place on September 17. Those who lack the sense to do so will pay the price at the polls.

One indisputable fact arises clearly from the election results: Dismantling the Joint List formed by four Arab parties – Hadash, Ta’al, Balad and the United Arab List – resulted in them losing about a quarter of their Knesset seats. From the 13 seats they won in the 2015 election by running as the Joint List (which had made the Joint List the third largest party in the Knesset), they fell to 10 seats in April’s election, when they ran on two separate slates. The message was clear: The voters said no to the ego battles among the parties that led to the break-up of their partnership.

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The election results don’t lie: UAL-Balad barely crossed the electoral threshold. Moreover, voter turnout in the Arab community fell below 50 percent, while more than a quarter of Arab voters cast their ballots for Zionist parties. It’s an irony of fate that Yisrael Beiteinu party chairman Avigdor Lieberman, the man whose insistence on raising the electoral threshold caused the Arab parties to unite and thereby increase their electoral strength, once again gave them the opportunity to bolster themselves politically and regain their voters’ trust by forcing another election on Israel when he refused to join Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. It’s not by chance that the Arab parties quickly reached the necessary conclusion and announced immediately after the Knesset dissolved that they intended to reunite into a single joint ticket.

Nevertheless, more than six weeks have gone by, and the negotiations on reuniting the ticket have yet to bear fruit. On paper, they still have time – the deadline for submitting Knesset slates to the Central Elections Committee is August 1. But these weeks are precious for candidates who must crisscross the country to increase voter turnout and attract new voters. The formation of the joint ticket has been delayed by disagreements over who should occupy the 11th through 14th slots on the slate (Jack Khoury, Monday). But if they can’t bridge these gaps and reunite as the Joint List, those slots are likely to be irrelevant in any case.

Strengthening Arab representation in the legislature and toppling the government are necessary conditions for fighting the Netanyahu-led coalition that passed the nation-state law. This isn’t the time for unnecessary quarrels or disputes that can be resolved after the election. The Israeli voter rewards political mergers. The Joint List must be promptly reconstituted.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.