New ‘centrist’ Arab party registers ahead of elections

Platform includes resolving housing crisis in Arab Israeli towns and bridging between Israelis and Palestinians

Adam Rasgon is a former Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

A view of the Northern Arab-Israeli city of Nazareth, on January 26, 2016 (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)
A view of the Northern Arab-Israeli city of Nazareth, on January 26, 2016 (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)

A new Arab party has registered to participate in the upcoming Knesset elections on April 9, Justice Ministry documents show.

“New Horizon — An Arab Centrist Party” registered in mid-December to run in the vote, which has since been set for April 9.

Salman Abu Ahmad, a 62-year-old engineer and Nazareth resident, told The Times of Israel in a phone call that he had established the party, whose candidates will include Arab Israelis from around the country.

The documents say the party’s goals include “improving the status of Israel’s Arab citizens…and promoting a national master plan as a basis to solve the housing shortage in the Arab sector.”

Arab Israeli communities have long suffered from a shortage in housing. They need some 5,000 new housing units per year, Kais Nasser, a lawyer who advises Arab municipalities, told the Haaretz daily in 2017.

The documents also say New Horizon’s aims include “upgrading the education system,…putting together an uncompromising plan to uproot crime and violence in Arab society, forming a plan to promote the status of women in Arab society and serving as a bridge to a historical reconciliation between the two [Israeli and Palestinian] peoples and peace with Arab states.”

View of the Knesset’s Plenary Hall during a session for a vote on a bill to dissolve parliament on December 26, 2018 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Arab Israelis make up approximately 20 percent of Israel’s population. However, many live in difficult socioeconomic conditions — just under half live in poverty, according to a 2018 National Insurance Institute report.

In 2017, 77 homicides occurred in Arab Israeli communities, up from 66 in 2016, outgoing Israel Police chief Roni Alsheich said in October.

Asked if New Horizon would attempt to merge with the Joint (Arab) List, a coalition of four mainly Arab parties, or run independently, Abu Ahmad said his party would be open to any possibility.

The Joint List won 13 seats in the last elections in 2015, making them one of the biggest factions in the opposition.

Joint (Arab) List MK Ahmad Tibi attends a Knesset Committee meeting, October 26, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Many members of the four parties in the Joint List have recently suggested they want to run together again in April. But Ahmad Tibi, the head of the Arab Movement for Renewal, has hinted his party could leave the coalition.

Asked to elaborate on New Horizon’s policy priorities, Abu Salman declined to comment and said his party would discuss them at a press conference within the next two weeks.

Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint List; and Tibi did not respond to requests for comment on the new party.

Mohammed Barakeh, a longtime leader of the left-wing Hadash party who currently heads the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee, also did not respond to a request for comment.

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