Balad leader denies meeting with PA intelligence chief in Ramallah

Report says meeting with senior Joint List lawmakers was aimed at returning Ra’am to the fold, after it ran separately in the last elections and joined coalition

Joint List MK Sami Abou Shahadeh speaks in the Knesset plenum during a vote on the state budget, November 2, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Joint List MK Sami Abou Shahadeh speaks in the Knesset plenum during a vote on the state budget, November 2, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The head of Balad, a faction within the Joint List party, denied on Sunday having attended meetings between other senior Arab Israeli lawmakers and the Palestinian Authority’s intelligence chief, who was said to push for the Joint List to reunify with the coalition Ra’am party.

MK Sami Abou Shahadeh rejected the claims in an interview with Army Radio, saying, “I heard about it from the media.”

According to the Channel 12 news report Friday, the meetings in Ramallah with the PA’s Majed Faraj were also attended by Joint List chief Ayman Odeh and MK Ahmad Tibi, who respectively head the party’s Hadash and Ta’al factions.

The unsourced report said Faraj, a close confidant of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, met the Joint List MKs in an effort to convince them to reunite with the  Islamist Ra’am which ran separately in the last elections and ended up becoming a member of the coalition.

The network said Faraj expressed the PA’s concern over the possibility of lower Arab Israeli turnout in the upcoming November election if the factions didn’t reunify, which could lead to former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu returning to power with a hardline, right-wing government.

The Joint List declined to comment on the report.

Ahmad Tibi and Ayman Odeh of the Arab Joint List during a plenum session in the assembly hall of the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem, on July 6, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Arab Israeli turnout was highest when all four major Arab parties ran together, with the Joint List winning 15 seats in the 2020 election. Ra’am split away from the party ahead of the next election in order to focus largely on domestic affairs.

It managed to garner four seats and joined the government in a historic move. The three Joint List subfactions won just six seats and remained together in the opposition.

Netanyahu’s Likud party said the Channel 12 report revealed a criminal offense by the PA interfering in Israel’s election and added that it planned to demand that the Shin Bet security service investigate the matter.

In a separate interview on Sunday with Kan radio, Abou Shahadeh said he supported ditching the Israeli flag, national anthem, and the Law of Return, which allows Jews from across the world to immigrate to Israel.

“We need a serious change in the racist structure that discriminates in favor of Jews and to build a better democratic model,” the Balad chair said.

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