Ahmad Tibi’s Ra’am-Ta’al list splits into two factions
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Ahmad Tibi’s Ra’am-Ta’al list splits into two factions

Knesset member says joint slate still a possibility, in apparent reference to expected unity deal with other Arab parties

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Ahmad Tibi holds a Palestinian flag atop the Temple Mount, January 3, 2015 (photo credit: Channel 2 / Tamar Abidat)
Ahmad Tibi holds a Palestinian flag atop the Temple Mount, January 3, 2015 (photo credit: Channel 2 / Tamar Abidat)

The Knesset’s House Committee approved on Thursday a request by MK Ahmad Tibi to split his Ra’am-Ta’al party into two separate factions.

Tibi said that despite the split, it was still possible that the two factions would run on a joint list in the upcoming March 17 elections, according to Channel 10 News. Tibi was apparently referring to a unity deal between Ra’am-Ta’al, the socialist Arab-Jewish Hadash, and the Balad party, which is expected to be signed in the coming days.

“There are now two options: Either we agree to go all of us together, or we [Ra’am-Ta’al] run as two separate lists in the elections. The chances for each option are about fifty-fifty,” he explained.

Tibi currently heads the secular Ta’al faction and is the only member of Knesset from its ranks. The members of Ra’am are all affiliated with the northern and southern branches of the Islamic Movement in Israel.

Tibi’s departure from Ra’am would allow him to collect campaign funds designated for his faction alone.

On Wednesday, a joint list for the possible future Arab-majority unity list had reportedly been finalized. The party would be headed by Haifa attorney Ayman Odeh, who was elected head of Hadash — the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality — on Saturday. He will be followed on the list by Ra’am-Ta’al representative Masud Ghnaim and Balad head Jamal Zahalka, respectively, according to the Sicha Mekomit activist website (Hebrew).

Balad chairman MK Jamal Zahalka (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Balad chairman MK Jamal Zahalka (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Tibi, who was considered a favorite to lead the unified slate, would be placed in the new party’s fourth slot, and Balad MK Hanin Zoabi, a firebrand lawmaker who faces the prospect of a trial for insulting policemen in July 2014, would place seventh on the list, the report said.

Hadash MK Dov Khenin, the only Jewish representative of his party, would be eighth on the new roster.

Legislators from Ra’am-Ta’al and Balad have been hard at work overcoming their own deep ideological differences and constructing a shared “pan-Arab” list that might stand a better chance of passing the 3.25 percent electoral threshold which passed into law last year.

Representatives of the parties, along with members of Hadash, met Wednesday night to discuss the final aspects of the deal, Haaretz reported. MKs from both Balad and Hadash emphasized that while there were still a number of details that had yet to be finalized, the disputes were for the most part minor and would not hinder the prospects of a deal being signed.

Recent polls have shown that a joint Arab-majority party would garner up to 12 seats in the elections.

Israel’s Arab-majority political parties reportedly rejected an offer by Isaac Herzog, head of the Zionist Camp faction — the joint Labor-Hatnua list — to join a potential coalition led by him should he win the premiership in March’s national elections.

MKs form Balad and Hadash during a plenum session voting on the state budget, in the Knesset, Jerusalem, July 29, 2013 (photo credit: Flash90)
MKs form Balad and Hadash during a plenum session voting on the state budget, in the Knesset, Jerusalem, July 29, 2013 (photo credit: Flash90)

Channel 10 reported Friday night that Herzog approached several leaders of the Arab parties to verify if such a deal were possible. Herzog’s office confirmed that such discussions took place but said the details were “incorrect,” claiming Tibi approached the Labor leader and not the other way around.

According to Channel 10, Tibi said Herzog had spoken to him and Mohammad Barakeh, the leader of Hadash, several weeks ago about the possibility of joining a Zionist Camp-led coalition. Tibi indicated that the two told Herzog it could not be done but did not rule out supporting the coalition from outside in exchange for the allocation of budgets for their constituencies.

This form of tacit support was made popular during the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s rule in the early 1990s when he increased spending on education, health and child allowances in the Arab sector and put in action a plan to boost the number of Arab citizens in the civil service. Arab parties have traditionally refused to formally join coalitions led by Jewish-Israeli parties.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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