Veteran Arab MK bolts the Joint List, taking his party along

Ahmad Tibi files paperwork to break ranks with 13-seat Arab alliance in Knesset, indicating he could run independently

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

MK Ahmad Tibi participates in a panel discussion at the Israel Conference on Democracy, in Tel Aviv on February 17, 2015. (Amir Levy/Flash90)
MK Ahmad Tibi participates in a panel discussion at the Israel Conference on Democracy, in Tel Aviv on February 17, 2015. (Amir Levy/Flash90)

Veteran Israeli Arab lawmaker Ahmad Tibi on Tuesday announced his Arab Movement for Renewal party would sever ties with the Joint List alliance, indicating the party could run independently in the April national elections.

In a letter to Likud MK Miki Zohar, the head of the Knesset’s House Committee, Tibi requested that the panel approve the removal of his party from the Joint List, which is also made up of the Hadash, Balad, and the United Arab List parties.

If the House Committee approves Tibi’s request, the Joint List would be left as a coalition of three mainly Arab factions.

In his letter, Tibi did not explain the decision.

Tibi and his spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

A Knesset spokesman said he was looking into the reports about Tibi’s request and would provide an update later.

The Joint List was formed in January 2015 after the Knesset raised the electoral threshold, increasing the percentage of votes a party must win to earn a seat in the 120-seat parliament from 2 to 3.25 percent. 

The Joint List, a coalition of communists, Palestinian nationalists, religious Muslims and feminists, won 13 seats in the March 2015 Knesset elections, becoming one of the largest factions in the opposition.

Joint (Arab) List leader Ayman Odeh (C) leads the party’s weekly faction at the Knesset, October 31, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint List, suggested on Tuesday that despite Tibi’s intention to leave the party, he would like to keep Hadash, Balad and the United Arab List on a single ticket.

“Netanyahu wants to see the Joint List break up more than anyone else. The extreme right wants to divide and conquer the Arabs,” Odeh, who also is the head of Hadash, said shortly after Tibi submitted his request to remove his party from the Joint List.

“I am proud to be a part of a party that knows how to put ideology before personal interests,” Odeh added.

Tibi filed the request to leave the Joint List some three months before Knesset elections are scheduled to take place on April 9.

A Hadashot TV poll two weeks ago showed the Joint List would have won 12 seats in the Knesset, if elections had been held the day the news channel conducted the survey.

Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman said she had not anticipated Tibi’s departure.

“I was surprised by Ahmad Tibi’s decision. Now is precisely the time for greater unity and the consolidation of democratic forces,” Touma-Sliman, a Hadash member, told Army Radio on Tuesday evening. “The Joint List will continue working. At the end of the day, the public will make whoever is considering leaving it pay a price.”

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