MK Jamal Zahalka on Saturday was reelected head of the Balad party in the Arab party’s primaries, and Haifa attorney Ayman Odeh was elected the new head of the Hadash party.
Odeh, a 15-year activist with Hadash — the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality — previously served as the party secretary and was sixth on the left-wing party’s list in the last elections, not winning a Knesset seat.
Earlier on Saturday MK Mohammad Barakeh announced that he would not run for a spot on the Hadash list and not serve in the next Knesset, opting to resign from political life. Hadash MK Afu Agrabia also said he was resigning.
MK Hanin Zoabi, a firebrand lawmaker who may be prosecuted for insulting policemen in July 2014, took second place in the Balad party primaries ahead of the Knesset elections, Ynet reported.
Separately, the three Arab-majority factions — Ra’am-Ta’al, Hadash and Balad — would not currently pass the new electoral threshold but, together, polls give them between 10-12 Knesset seats. It is not yet clear if they will join forces.
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.
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 MK Ahmed Tibi of Ra’am-Ta’al-Mada approached the Labor leader and not the other way around.
According to Channel 10, Tibi said Herzog had spoken to him and Mohammad Barakeh, a member of the Arab-Jewish communist party 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.