Arab-majority parties meet to discuss reestablishment of Joint List
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Arab-majority parties meet to discuss reestablishment of Joint List

Hadash official says factions want to announce unified slate within two weeks; Balad MK says parties yet to iron out seat distribution

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

MKs Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi react after submitting a joint list of candidates from their Hadash and Ta'al parties to the Central Elections Committee at the Knesset on February 21, 2019. (Hadash)
MKs Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi react after submitting a joint list of candidates from their Hadash and Ta'al parties to the Central Elections Committee at the Knesset on February 21, 2019. (Hadash)

The four largest Arab-majority parties in Israel have recently held talks to reconstitute the Joint List ahead of the upcoming national elections in September, officials said on Thursday.

The Joint List was a coalition of the four Arab-majority parties, Hadash, Ta’al, Ra’am and Balad, but it split up into two separate slates — Hadash-Ta’al and Ra’am-Balad — before the last national vote in April.

Representatives of the four parties met on both Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss reestablishing the Joint List, Hadash Secretary-General Mansour Dahamshe and Balad MK Mtanes Shihadeh said in phone calls.

“Our goal is to announce within two weeks the reunification of the Joint List,” Dahamshe told The Times of Israel. “We believe we are on the path to unity.”

The Haaretz daily first reported that the four factions met on Tuesday and Wednesday to talk about recreating the Joint List.

Hadash is a socialist party that emphasizes Arab-Jewish partnership, Ta’al is an exclusively Arab faction, Ra’am is an Islamist party and Balad is a nationalist faction.

In the 2015 elections, the Joint List won 13 of the 120 Knesset seats and became one of the largest factions in the opposition. Comparatively, in the last vote, Hadash-Ta’al and Ra’am-Balad collectively garnered a meager 10 seats.

In the April elections, Arab voter turnout was the lowest in at least two decades, 49.2 percent, according to the Israel Democracy Institute. (Yousef Makladeh, an Arab Israeli statistician, said that an estimated 52% of Arab Israelis voted.) In the 2015 vote, some 63.5% of eligible Arab Israeli voters cast their ballots, IDI has reported.

Fewer Arabs turned out to vote in April partially to object to the dissolution of the Joint List, according to Arik Rudnitsky, an expert on Arab Israeli politics at IDI.

Mtanes Shihadeh (center), Ra’am-Balad’s number two candidate, and Abbas Mansour (right), the party’s number one candidate, at a press conference on March 28, 2019. (Courtesy of Ra’am-Balad)

“The break up of the Joint List was one of the main reasons for the low turnout,” he said in an interview in early May, noting that fewer Arabs voted in the last elections also partly to protest the nation-state law.

The law, which the Knesset passed July 2018, enshrined Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people,” recognized Jewish holidays and days of remembrance, and in contrast to Israel’s Declaration of Independence, included no reference to the equality of all Israeli citizens.

Many Arab leaders have panned the legislation, with some going as far as to call it racist. Tens of thousands of Arab and Jewish Israelis also participated in demonstrations against it, in the weeks following its passage.

Shihadeh, the Balad MK, said that the four factions still have not delved into the details of seat distribution.

“We still are not there, but we believe that we will figure this issue out,” he said.

A disagreement about seat distribution was one of the reasons that the four parties failed to reconstitute the Joint List before the last election, a former Balad spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

Ta’al leader Ahmad Tibi has recently said that the results of the last elections would be the basis for the makeup of a reestablished Joint List.

Hadash-Ta’al won six seats in April, whereas Ra’am-Balad gained four.

Asked whether he agreed with Tibi’s statement, Shihadeh did not answer, but insisted that the four parties would find a solution to the matter.

The four parties have until August 2 to come to an agreement about running on a unified slate. The Central Elections Committee has set that date as the deadline for list registration.

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