The Yisrael Beytenu party, led by Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, said Saturday that it would file a petition with the Central Elections Committee asking to disqualify the new united Arab party from running in the national elections on March 17.
The new faction, set to be called the United Democratic Party, brings together Israel’s Arab-majority parties — Balad, Ra’am-Ta’al, the socialist, Arab-Jewish Hadash party and the Islamic Movement — in a historic agreement signed this week to run on a joint list.
Yisrael Beytenu said in a statement Saturday that “whoever casts his lot with Balad, whose whole raison d’etre is to support terror groups and cooperate with Israel’s enemies, does not deserve to be part of the Israeli Knesset.”
“This union between the parties proves to everyone that there is seemingly no difference between [Balad MK] Hanin [Zoabi] and [Hadash MK Dov] Knenin, and Dov is exactly like Hanin Zoabi,” the statement read.
Yisrael Beytenu called on other parties to join the petition against the united Arab list “to avoid an absurd situation in which members of Knesset act against the state.”
On Friday, the joint Arab party, polling at 12 Knesset seats, said it would be “stronger than Liberman,” whose party has dropped in the polls in the wake of a large-scale graft scandal, with some surveys indicating Yisrael Beytenu would win fewer than 10 seats.
The head of the new Arab party, Haifa attorney Ayman Odeh, a political newcomer who was elected head of Hadash, said the goal was to prevent the Israeli right-wing from winning the coming elections.
The party presented its list on Friday, with Odeh at the top followed by Ra’am-Ta’al representative Masud Ghnaim, Balad head Jamal Zahalka, and Ra’am Ta’al’s Ahmad Tibi.
Slots five to 11 on the list will be given in order to a representative from Hadash, then the Islamic Movement, followed by Balad, then Ra’am-Ta’al, then back to top of the order. Seats 12 and up will alternate between Ta’al and the Islamic Movement. .
The controversial Balad lawmaker Zoabi will run in the seventh slot. Hadash’s Khenin, who was placed eighth on the list, will likely be the only Jewish person on the list with a realistic shot at winning election
“We oppose the Arab vs. Jew and Jew vs. Arab approach. Our Knesset list, which has Jews and Arabs, is not against Israeli society, it fights for Israeli society to become [more] democratic, equal, [a society that] pursues peace,” Odeh said at a press conference in Nazareth Friday
MK Tibi (Ra’am-Ta’al), who had been considered a favorite to lead the unified slate and who placed fourth, called on Jews as well as Arabs to vote for the new alliance.
“We call on the Arab public, as well as the Jewish public who believes in our way, to vote for us. Our list is not in any danger. Liberman’s list is at risk,” said Tibi
Zoabi said the Arab parties’ union was a “historic achievement” and the new faction would be the “only party that is in favor of full equality.”
“We are facing a racist policy and a racist regime that sidelines Palestinian citizens of Israel. I think this [union] restores the Arab public’s trust in politics. Those who opted not to vote in the past, will vote now,” she said.
Legislators worked for weeks to overcome their own deep ideological differences and construct a shared “pan-Arab” list that would stand a better chance of clearing the 3.25 percent electoral threshold which passed into law last year.
Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.