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 had 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.
On Saturday, Hadash and Balad were holding primary elections with final results expected later in the day.
Barakeh announced Saturday that he will not run for a spot on the Hadash list and will not serve in the next Knesset, opting to resign from political life. Hadash MK Afu Agrabia also said he was resigning. Preliminary results Saturday show 74 percent of Balad members would like to see MK Jamal Zahalka carry on as leader of the party.
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.
The Zionist Camp led by Herzog and Livni continues to hold a small but persistent lead over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, according to a Maariv poll released Friday. The survey gave Zionist Camp a three-seat lead over Likud, 25 mandates to 22.
A Channel 10 poll Thursday night gave Zionist Camp 24 seats to Likud’s 20, while a Channel 2 poll gave Zionist Camp 25 and Likud 23.
Maariv had Jewish Home in third place with 17 seats, then Yesh Atid 11, Arab parties (Ra’am-Taal/Balad and Hadash) 11, Kulanu 9, United Torah Judaism 7, Shas 6, Yisrael Beytenu 6, and Meretz 6.
Netanyahu and Tzipi Livni of the Zionist Camp exchanged barbs on Friday, each charging that their respective parties would not sit in a coalition with the other. Netanyahu blasted the joint Labor-Hatnua party list for being “anti-Zionist” and representing the “radical left.”
“Unity is not a technical matter of giving out portfolios, it must revolve around [a unified] approach,” Livni told Army Radio Friday. “The way of Netanyahu and [Jewish Home head Naftali] Bennett is a path that leads the State of Israel to decline in every aspect. It is important to understand who and what the blocs are in this election — there is one bloc of the radical right, which includes Likud and Bennett, whose way is very clear. Their way is not our way.”