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Haaretz reporter Gideon Levy says he rejected offer to join Arab nationalist party

Columnist who accuses Israel of practicing apartheid against Palestinians says he considered Balad’s election proposal, but decided to remain a journalist

Israeli journalist Gideon Levy speaks at a  in Airport City on September 3, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Israeli journalist Gideon Levy speaks at a in Airport City on September 3, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Left-wing Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy revealed Saturday that he had turned down an offer to join the Arab nationalist Balad faction ahead of the November Knesset election.

Levy, who brands Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians as apartheid, was asked about reports of an offer from the majority-Arab Joint List subfaction while appearing on a Channel 13 panel.

He confirmed that an offer had been made and initially said he was “considering” it. But when pressed, Levy clarified that nothing came of it and that “I’m a journalist and I will remain a journalist.”

If elected to the Knesset, Levy would have been Balad’s first-ever Jewish MK. However, the Joint List’s most hardline subfaction only has one representative — its chairman Sami Abou Shahadeh — in the current parliament and it’s not clear whether the party would’ve performed well enough for Levy to be able to enter the Knesset.

The offer represents an apparent effort by Balad to bring in new faces as much of the Joint List is poised to look the same if it’s three parties — Hadash, Ta’al and Balad — run together again.

Abou Shahadeh was rumored to have led an unsuccessful effort to replace Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh with former Hadash MK Yousef Jabareen. Last week’s Hadash primaries saw Odeh, Aida Touma-Sliman and Ofer Cassif each retain their respective one, two and three spots on the list while Ta’al chairman Ahmad Tibi and his deputy Osama Saadi are expected to keep their positions as well. With Abu Shahada again tapped as Balad chairman, the first six spots of the Joint List are likely to remain the same after the next election.

Joint List MKs (from L) , Aida Touma-Suleiman, Ayman Oudeh, Ahmad Tibi, Sami Abou Shahadeh, and Ofer Cassif visit the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on May 10, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The party is hoping to build on last election’s six-seat performance though, which would mean that another Balad MK would likely be able to enter Knesset.

On Friday, Channel 12 reported that Palestinian Authority General Intelligence chief Majed Faraj met twice in the past week with Joint List leaders in an effort to convince them to rejoin forces with the Islamist Ra’am party, which split away ahead of the last election and went on to enter the coalition on its own.

Without citing a source, the network said Faraj expressed the PA’s concern over the possibility of lower Arab Israeli turnout in the upcoming November election, which could lead to former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu returning to power with a hardline, right-wing government.

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 receive four seats and joined the government in a historic move. The three Joint List subfactions received just six seats and remained together in the opposition.

Convinced that a reassembled Joint List would improve voter turnout, Faraj urged the Arab Israeli lawmakers to put aside their differences with Ra’am and even suggested that the PA could help mediate between them, Channel 12 reported. The lawmakers told Faraj in response that such an effort was unlikely to succeed due to Ra’am’s determination to run independently.

The network then quoted an unnamed senior Palestinian official who confirmed that Faraj met with the Joint List leaders but said it was part of the PA’s routine engagement with Israeli lawmakers and flatly denied that the topic of discussion was interference in the upcoming election.

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