The Arab League on Sunday called on Arab citizens of Israel to vote in Tuesday’s elections, fearing a low turnout.
Recent Israeli polls predicted voter turnout in the Arab sector may dip below 50% on January 22, prompting the Cairo-based organization to warn in a press statement against “the emergence of an upcoming [Israeli] policy of ethnic cleansing and the domination of racism, under the claim that the Arab poses a threat to Israel.”
Founded in 1945, the Arab League is the highest representative body of the 22 Arab states.
In its statement, the Arab League claimed that it is closely monitoring the Israeli elections and the expected victory of the “racist extreme right.” It argued the Israeli right “does not want peace and does not want the other, but only wants a Jewish state while claiming that the Arab poses a threat to the land of Israel,” Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.
According to the Arab League, low Arab voting rates will only enable the 19th Knesset to pass “racist laws against the Arabs” with greater ease. Arab MKs, the statement claimed, could oppose such laws and expose them to international parliaments and public opinion.
The call for Arab-Israeli voters to use the ballot box to fight perceived discrimination contrasts sharply with the Arab boycott of the 2001 elections, urged after Israeli police killed 13 Arab citizens in the course of Arab riots in October 2000. Some Arab-Israelis protested then-prime minister Ehud Barak by casting a blank ballot, but others, following calls from the Balad and the Ra’am parties, abstained from voting altogether.
Palestinian officials in the West Bank also expressed fear on Sunday that the new Israeli government will be more right wing than the previous, jeopardizing prospects of a negotiated peace agreement.
Three major Arab or predominantly Arab parties are running in the elections — Balad, Ra’am Ta’al and the Arab-Jewish Hadash. Most polls have the three winning 10-12 seats between them.
The Israeli High Court three weeks ago rejected a Central Elections Committee ban on Balad’s MK Hanin Zoabi, clearing her to run for reelection. The petition against her, which was spearheaded by Likud MK Ofir Akunis, claimed that the parliamentarian had undermined the state and its institutions, including the IDF, by participating in the Mavi Marmara flotilla that tried to breach the Israeli-imposed maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip in May 2010.