The support from Hadash-Ta’al and United Arab List-Balad for the law that dissolved the Knesset – in contrast to the other center-left parties who voted against it – stemmed first and foremost from the internal political considerations of the four parties that make up the two slates. All of them saw new elections as a window of opportunity to correct the errors that resulted in their relatively poor showing in the April 9 elections to the 21st Knesset.
The low voter turnout in the Arab community (49 percent), a third of whom voted for non-Arab parties, primarily Meretz, was a clear warning sign for the two parties. The parties won only 10 seats in the Knesset compared to 13 in the previous Knesset, when they ran as the Joint List. Tens of thousands of voters who brought about this great achievement in 2015 said no to the internal political power struggles that led to the alliance’s demise.
This warning has been understood and internalized by the party heads, and the day after the vote on dissolution they began discussing how to heal the rift that led to the collapse of the Joint List and the decision to run as two separate slates. But the real test will be whether they can overcome their differences and unite around their common interest.
Although there are three months until the election, restoring confidence and getting the Arab public back to the ballot box won’t be an easy task. It would be careless to waste time on internal elections and conducting negotiations at a snail’s pace until the slates must be submitted in early August.
It would behoove the four parties to set up the Joint List again during the coming weeks and to be attentive to their public regarding proper representation of their voters, putting up candidates who will contribute electorally to the slate and not just be mere decoration.
An early announcement that the Joint List has been reestablished will save the efforts and energies that the parties would otherwise spend on their internal issues and power struggles over who gets which places on the slate, and allow them to focus on the truly vital issues.
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It will free them to conduct a focused campaign with clear messages that will restore confidence among the activists and appeal directly to voters, to clarify that the “punishment” has been understood and that they are now worthy of regaining their support. To do this the slate will have to present a vision that also includes civilian issues, topped by the war on crime and obtaining building permits.
Such a move could expedite other unions and give a tailwind to the bloc defined as center-left, which could naturally lead to a rise in the voting rate for this bloc and perhaps a change in Israel’s political map.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.