Israel’s Arab parties, Balad and Ra’am-Ta’al, are set to sign a unity deal and merge with the socialist, Arab-Jewish Hadash party in the coming days. A joint list for the future Arab-majority faction has reportedly been finalized.
The party will 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.
MK Ahmad Tibi (Ra’am-Ta’al), who was considered a favorite to lead the unified slate, will 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, will place seventh on the list.
Hadash MK Dov Khenin, the only Jewish representative of his party, will 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 upcoming March 17 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.
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 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.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.