Report: PA working to convince Joint List to rejoin with Ra’am ahead of election

Israeli TV network quotes unnamed Palestinian official who confirms that intelligence chief met Arab MKs but insists PA not seeking to interfere in November election

Joint List members present their party slate to the Central Elections Committee in the Knesset, January 15, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Joint List members present their party slate to the Central Elections Committee in the Knesset, January 15, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

A close confidant of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly met with the leaders of the majority-Arab Joint List party this week in an effort to convince them to rejoin forces with the Islamist Ra’am party, which split away ahead of the last election and went on to enter the coalition on its own.

PA General Intelligence chief Majed Faraj met twice in Ramallah with Joint List leader Ayman Odeh, who also heads the Hadash subfaction, along with MK Ahmad Tibi, who heads the Ta’al subfaction, and Sami Abou Shahadeh, who heads the Balad subfaction, Channel 12 reported on Friday.

Without citing a source, the network said Faraj expressed the PA’s concern over the possibility of lower Arab Israeli turnout in the upcoming November election, which could lead to former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu returning to power with a hardline, right-wing government.

While peace talks between Israel and the PA appear far off, the sides have enjoyed a relative warming of ties over the past year since the new Israeli government was sworn in, with Jerusalem advancing a series of economic measures aimed at improving Palestinian livelihood. A narrow government made up of Netanyahu’s Likud and other right-wing parties would likely be less inclined to continue such steps.

Arab Israeli turnout was highest when all four major Arab parties ran together, with the Joint List winning 15 seats in the 2020 election. Ra’am split away from the party ahead of the next election in order to focus largely on domestic affairs. It managed to receive four seats and joined the government in a historic move. The three Joint List subfactions received just six seats and remained together in the opposition.

Convinced that a reassembled Joint List would improve voter turnout, Faraj urged the Arab Israeli lawmakers to put aside their differences with Ra’am and even suggested that the PA could help mediate between them, Channel 12 reported. The lawmakers told Faraj in response that such an effort was unlikely to succeed due to Ra’am’s determination to run independently.

Palestinian Authority General Intelligence Services chief Majed Faraj speaking in Hebron on June 11, 2018. (Screenshot: Youtube)

The network then quoted an unnamed senior Palestinian official who confirmed that Faraj met with the Joint List leaders but said it was part of the PA’s routine engagement with Israeli lawmakers and flatly denied that the topic of discussion was interference in the upcoming election.

The Joint List declined to comment on the report.

Netanyahu’s Likud party said the Channel 12 report revealed a criminal offense by the PA and added that it planned to demand that the Shin Bet security service investigate the matter.

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