The newly founded joint Arab list will not be part of the next coalition, regardless of whether it will be formed by incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu or his rivals, Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, the party’s number 2 told The Times of Israel on Sunday.
Masud Ganaim, 49, a member of Israel’s Islamic Movement and currently an MK with the Ra’am-Ta’al party, said the new union of Arab parties would nevertheless consider supporting a coalition favorable to the Arab minority, which comprises 20 percent of Israel’s population.
“We will certainly not be part of the government, no matter how left-wing it is,” Ganaim said in a phone interview. “But supporting a center-left bloc whose basic principles are favorable to Arab citizens in Israel and to the peace process — that makes sense. That we would do.”
Forced to chose between a right-wing coalition led by Likud and a left-wing coalition headed by the Zionist Camp, Ganaim was unequivocal.
‘Of course we prefer to see Netanyahu lose, given the conduct of his last two governments, with their racist discourse and Jewish legislation’
“Of course we prefer to see Netanyahu lose, given the conduct of his last two governments, with their racist discourse and Jewish legislation,” he said. “It’s not that [Livni and Herzog] are perfect, or that they meet all of our wishes. Particularly their name, the Zionist Camp, is not to our liking. But relatively speaking, they will be better than Bibi [Netanyahu] and the right-wing bloc.”
Recent Israeli polls have predicted 12 seats for the joint Arab list, one seat more than the current combined power of the socialist Hadash (4), Islamic Ra’am-Ta’al (4), and Arab-nationalist Balad (3) parties. But despite the lack of independent Arab polling data, Ganaim predicted that the new list would raise Arab voter participation — which stood at 56 percent in the last election of January 2013, 12 percentage points below the national average — and grant Israel’s Arab minority an unprecedented 15 seats in parliament.
“Unification has been a demand of the Arab citizens for years,” he said, ruling out the possibility that the joint list would fragment back into its political component parts after the elections.
“We have a committee that makes decisions on behalf of the four components,” he said.
‘The Charlie Hebdo issue was resolved to my satisfaction’
When Israeli book chain Steimatzky announced last month that it would sell copies of Charlie Hebdo and donate the proceedings to families of the victims of a recent massacre at the French satirical magazine’s offices, Ganaim wrote a letter to Netanyahu warning of “ferment and extreme anger among Arabs and Muslims.”
“No one will be able to foresee the outcome,” he wrote, using language that many Israeli observers interpreted as a tacit threat. “The Israeli government and Steimatzky will bear responsibility for any outcome.”
On Sunday, Ganaim defended his letter, adding that the issue was resolved to his satisfaction.
“My goal was to prevent the festive dissemination of the magazine containing drawings of the Prophet Muhammad portrayed in a humiliating way, and that’s what happened,” he said. “No Muslim can abide his religion and prophet being attacked in such a way.”
Ganaim said that Steimatzky eventually capitulated to media pressure and to threats of legal action, limiting the sale of the magazine to its website.
“It’s okay. In the end they didn’t disseminate the newspaper,” he said
‘A sense of spiritual emptiness leads Arab youth to IS’
Commenting on news that yet another Arab Israeli youth was arrested recently by Israeli security for fighting alongside the Islamic State in Iraq, Ganaim opined that while it was worrying, the trend of Israelis joining global jihad movements was still marginal.
“Israeli Arabs have much work to do here in Israel to solve our problems as Palestinians. They should not intervene in the matters of Syria or other countries,” he said. “However, this phenomenon is still negligible and I hope it remains that way.”
Disenchanted Israeli Arabs are no different from their peers in Europe or elsewhere, the former Sakhnin high school history teacher added, pointing at education as the main deficiency.
“I believe an intellectual and spiritual vacuum is one of the drivers of this phenomenon,” he said. “There’s this sense of emptiness among the youth, who want to express themselves and see themselves as part of something big, something global. Some find the answers in these kinds of organizations.”