An estimated 87% of Arab Israelis who cast ballots in the Knesset elections on Monday voted for the Joint List, as community members rallied around the party and deserted the centrist Blue and White for the Arab-led alliance, a prominent pollster said on Wednesday.
The Joint List was set to surge to 15 seats according to a near-final tally of Monday’s votes, giving the alliance it’s strongest-ever representation in the Knesset.
The 87% marks an increase in support for the Joint List among Arabs compared to the last national elections in September when an estimated 80% of Arab voters backed it, Yousef Makladeh, the head of the Statnet research institute, told The Times of Israel. The party received 13 seats in the parliament in those elections.
Makladeh said his calculations were based on the results of 99% of the total vote in Monday’s elections. The Central Elections Committee has not released the final and complete elections results.
He also said his calculations drew from data from polling stations in Arab towns and estimates regarding voter turnout in mixed Jewish-Arab cities, such as Jaffa and Ramle.
The pollster said that many Arabs who voted for Zionist parties in September decided to support the Joint List after Blue and White’s campaign started to make concerted efforts to appeal to right-wing voters.
“They began viewing Blue and White as no longer a part of the center or left and ultimately decided that the Joint List would best represent their interests,” he said, noting that some statements made by Blue and White chief Benny Gantz perturbed a large number of Arab voters who had previously supported Zionist parties.
Gantz said in an interview in mid-February that one of his party’s options would be to establish a government with “a Jewish majority.” He also repeatedly vowed that he would not form a government with the support of the Joint List.
Makladeh said that in September’s elections an estimated 20% of Arab voters cast ballots for Zionist parties, while only some 13% did so on Monday.
In the national elections in April 2019 when the Joint List ran on two separate slates — Hadash-Ta’al and Ra’am-Balad — an estimated 30% of Arab voters backed Zionist parties.
Makladeh added that he calculated the overall turnout of Arab voters on Monday to be 64.7% — a jump from September when an estimated 59.2% cast ballots.
In April’s vote, only some 49.2% of Arabs showed up at polling stations to cast ballots.
The pollster said that the recently revealed US administration’s plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict played a significant role in bringing Arabs out to vote.
“Many people see this plan as a real threat,” he said. “They thought if we don’t act now, they may actually implement it.”
The US plan “contemplates” placing ten Arab villages near the West Bank inside a future Palestinian state, if both Israel and the Palestinians agree to do so.
It was viewed by many Palestinians and their allies as an attempt to provide US cover for Israeli plans to annex large swaths of the West Bank.
Makladeh also said Netanyahu’s rhetoric against Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi encouraged Arab voters to take to the polls.
“People thought Netanyahu purposefully singled out Ahmad Tibi because he has a common Arab name,” he said. “They did not view it as an attack on Tibi alone but rather all Arabs.”
While Netanyahu did not use much of the anti-Arab rhetoric he has used in past elections before Monday’s vote, he did repeatedly suggest that Tibi and the rest of the Joint List lack legitimacy to be involved in government decision-making.
The pollster added the Joint List, which includes secular nationalists, socialists and Islamists, managed to avoid internal conflicts, helping make the party more attractive to Arab voters.
“Before last September’s elections, they fought for days over which party will get which seat. But this time, they started out unified and quickly agreed to the makeup of their slate,” he said. “This show of greater unity made people feel better about the Joint List’s approach.”
Separately, Channel 12 reported on Wednesday that data collected by the Joint List showed that the alliance received 20,000 votes from Jewish Israelis in Monday’s vote — double what it obtained from them in September.