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Top pollster: Ra’am consistently bleeding support, falling below Knesset threshold

Yousef Maqladeh, who polls Arab Israelis for Ra’am and Joint List, says Ramadan tensions wounded party badly; 28% in community say Netanyahu best politician to be PM

Ra'am leader Mansour Abbas, left, holds a press conference at the Knesset, October 25, 2021; Opposition head and Likud chief Benjamin Netanyahu, right, leads a faction meeting at the Knesset, October 25, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ra'am leader Mansour Abbas, left, holds a press conference at the Knesset, October 25, 2021; Opposition head and Likud chief Benjamin Netanyahu, right, leads a faction meeting at the Knesset, October 25, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Islamist Ra’am party is set to lose its seats in the Knesset when elections are next held, according to Yousef Maqladeh, a top Arab Israeli pollster who conducts internal polls for both Ra’am and the Joint List.

“For the past two months, we’ve seen the same polls, whether we asked 100 people or 500 people. Ra’am, right now, is not passing the voter threshold [to win Knesset representation]. Everything that happened at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and Ra’am’s apparent inability to do anything from within the coalition, has had a stark impact,” said Maqladeh.

Under Israeli election law, political parties require 3.25 percent of the vote to enter the Knesset. Winning 3.79% of the nationwide vote in the March 2021 election, Ra’am holds four seats in the current parliament and was a crucial component in the establishment of the eight-party governing coalition.

The Joint List, Ra’am’s key competition among Arab Israelis, shot up to eight mandates in a Channel 13 poll conducted by Maqladeh on Monday where the Islamists again failed to cross the election threshold. The poll assumed Arab voter turnout would remain at around 45% — the same as the 2021 elections.

Maqladeh added that he believed it was “still too early to begin eulogizing” the Islamist party, but the situation was “serious.”

The apparent shift in Arab Israeli public opinion comes as the ever-fragile coalition led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is likely to face a motion to dissolve the Knesset on Wednesday. Ra’am party members are weighing whether to support the bill in its preliminary vote, with some lawmakers calling for the party to leave the coalition entirely.

Palestinians, including one waving a Hamas flag, clash with Israeli police at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Temple Mount compound on April 22, 2022. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Ra’am suspended its membership in the coalition last month as tensions spiraled at the Temple Mount during Ramadan. Palestinian rioters repeatedly clashed with Israeli police. Some Jewish extremists also sought to ascend to the hilltop, Judaism’s holiest site, further inflaming the situation.

With Ra’am’s membership frozen, the coalition can now only muster 54 lawmakers in the Knesset. Assuming the opposition votes unanimously to dissolve the Knesset, that would be enough to advance the motion to committee, en route to the three further plenum readings it would need in order to pass, dissolve parliament and trigger new elections.

When Arab Israelis are asked to pick which leading Israeli politician they preferred as prime minister, the results are also striking, according to figures from a recent survey provided by Maqladeh.

Just 3.4% named Bennett, while 28% named former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid received 25% and Defense Minister Benny Gantz got 11%. Another 32.2% were undecided.

“Again, this is not the first time, nor the second time, nor the fiftieth time. These are long-term trends,” Maqladeh emphasized.

Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi said Tuesday the predominantly Arab faction will back the proposal to dissolve the Knesset that is slated to come for a preliminary vote on Wednesday.

“If the [bill] comes up [for a vote] — the Joint List will vote in favor,” Tibi told Army Radio on Tuesday morning. “This government, on issues critical to the Arab public, is worse than the previous one.”

MK Ahmad Tibi attends a Joint Arab list faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on March 7, 2022 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ra’am was previously part of the Joint List, which is made up of several factions, but it ran alone in the March 2021 elections. The Islamists later joined the ruling coalition formed after the vote, making it the first Arab Israeli party to do so in decades.

Senior officials in Ra’am and the Southern Islamic Movement’s Shura Council have reportedly held talks with the Joint List on possibly reuniting in the event of new elections.

The secretary-general of the Joint List’s Hadash party, Mansour Dahamsheh, denied the reports, saying “no such meetings ever took place.”

Dahamsheh added that the Communist Arab-Jewish party would vote to dissolve the Knesset on Wednesday “without a shadow of a doubt.”

Another Hadash official confirmed the party’s intentions, but expressed skepticism that the vote would take place, as it remains unclear whether the opposition has the support required to pass the motion.

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