MK Hanin Zoabi to run for Nazareth mayor

If elected, controversial lawmaker would be first female to head a majority Arab municipality in Israel

Hanin Zoabi (photo credit: Flash90)
Hanin Zoabi (photo credit: Flash90)

MK Hanin Zoabi (Balad) announced Wednesday that she was officially joining the race for mayor of her hometown of Nazareth, ending weeks of speculation as to whether the outspoken lawmaker would throw her hat into the ring.

Zoabi will face current mayor Ramiz Jaraisy and Ali Salam, current deputy mayor, in the October election. If she succeeds, she will become the first female mayor of an Arab-majority city in Israel.

The Knesset member has deep roots in the city and some of her relatives have held electoral posts there in the past. “City residents who are not close with the leader are dismissed and neglected, marginalized and even discriminated,” she said while announcing her candidacy Wednesday

Nazareth, “the capital of the Arab public,” could be “a modern, thriving and blooming city,” Zoabi said, adding that she was running “with a message of equality for women” and of an “egalitarian society.”

As an MK, Zoabi has been a lightning rod for controversy due to her outspoken support of the Palestinian cause and perceived anti-Israeli statements. She was on board the Mavi Marmara during the 2011 IDF raid on the Gaza-bound ship, and castigated the IDF over the deaths of nine Turks on board, although she later denied any connection with the Turkish group which organized the flotilla.

In 2012, a coalition of right-wing parliamentarians led by Likud MKs Ofir Akunis and Danny Danon used her participation in the flotilla in an attempt to ban her from returning to the Knesset, and succeeded in getting the Central Elections Committee to blacklist her from running, but the decision was later overturned by the High Court.

Israel is to hold municipal elections in cities throughout the country on October 23. Zoabi is not the only MK to seek a new job: in May, Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz announced that he would challenge incumbent Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai for the post.

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