In a press conference, representatives of the four-party strong alliance of Arab parties known as the Joint List say that negotiations to maintain the unity of the bloc have failed, making it likely the alliance will fall apart.
“We’ve failed, unfortunately. The Joint List will not continue in its current lineup,” says Balad MK Mtanes Shehadeh.
Tensions among the four Arab parties have been rising steadily over the past few months, stoked by renegade Ra’am party chief Mansour Abbas. Abbas has publicly warmed ties with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a move seen by his Joint List colleagues as beyond the pale.
Three meetings between Joint List representatives have been held over the past few days in an attempt to maintain the party’s unity ahead of the March elections. All have ended so far without result.
Ta’al representative MK Osama Saadi was more circumspect than Shehadeh, indicating that eight days were left until the deadline for submitting lists of candidates. But he sounds an extremely pessimistic note about the prospects.
“We will now return to our political groups and decide how to move forward after this terrible meeting,” Saadi says.
Ra’am party secretary Walid Hawashleh tells The Times of Israel that the decision to break the alliance of Arab parties is not final.
“Sure, right now, the whole situation is totally crazy. But politics is like soccer, there’s still time. We have until February 4th, when the final lists must be presented, just like in soccer, where every game lasts 90 minutes,” Hawashleh says.
Hawashleh says that the Islamist party’s Shura council will meet in the coming days to decide whether or not to formally break off from the Joint List or reach a compromise.
But Hawashleh agrees the potential for unity now seems “remote.”