Joint List MK says he won’t run in upcoming Knesset elections

Osama Saadi announces departure as predominantly Arab party struggles in the polls, faces potential split; Ta’al subfaction members urge him to reconsider

Joint List MK Osama Saadi at a Knesse committee meeting on July 5, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Joint List MK Osama Saadi at a Knesse committee meeting on July 5, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A Joint List lawmaker declared Saturday that he will not seek a seat in the next Knesset, as the predominantly Arab party contends with poor polling numbers and internal divisions ahead of the upcoming elections.

MK Osama Saadi made the announcement at the meeting of the Joint list’s Ta’al subfaction to select candidates for the November 1 vote, saying he would not compete for a spot on the party’s electoral slate.

Ta’al activists at the conference were caught off guard by the move and were pressing Saadi to reverse course.

Sources in Ta’al told Channel 12 news that Saadi felt a lack of appreciation from Hadash and Balad, the two other subfactions that compose the Joint List.

Saadi recently said to associates that he felt exhausted and was irked by the Joint List’s internal struggles, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

Saadi, the brother-in-law and close confidant of Ta’al chief Ahmad Tibi, first entered the Knesset in 2015 when the Joint List won a record 15 seats.

His announcement came days after an opinion poll published by Kan predicted the lowest-ever turnout among Arab Israelis in the November 1 election, potentially causing Arab representation in the Knesset to dwindle.

The current lowest turnout among Arab voters, 44.6%, was reached in the most recent election in 2021. A year before that, when all four major Arab and Arab-majority parties ran on a combined slate as the Joint List, Arab participation hit its peak — 64.8%, giving the Joint List 15 seats in the 120-member Knesset.

But the independent run by the Islamist Ra’am party in last year’s election caused Arab representation to drop down to 10 seats in the current Knesset (6 for the Joint List, 4 for Ra’am), and the poll predicted it will further drop to nine — five for the Joint List and four for Ra’am — if the makeup of parties doesn’t change.

The poll also found that if the Palestinian nationalist Balad party splits off from the Joint List, as it is threatening to do, Arab representation will suffer a further blow, even risking the possibility that all three parties will fail to cross the 3.25% electoral threshold.

In such a scenario, Balad will fail to enter the Knesset, and both the Joint List and Ra’am will be perilously close to oblivion at four seats each, just over the threshold.

Joint List MKs celebrate after a Knesset vote rejected an extension of the Palestinian family reunification law, in Jerusalem, July 6, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The dip in Arab party representation from the current 10 seats to 8 would be reflected in a slight boost for other parties — enough to push opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing and religious allies to 61 seats, a majority in the Knesset. Current polls predict that Netanyahu’s bloc will win 59-60 seats, while parties in the current coalition — which includes Ra’am — would have around 45-55 seats, continuing a political deadlock that has forced four previous elections over the past three years.

Recent television surveys have forecast the Joint List, which is aligned with neither bloc, will pick up 5-6 seats in the elections.

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