Following Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s declaration of early elections,
Arab political parties spent time regrouping Wednesday, trying to figure out how
they would shape their message and increase voter participation.
a-Sanaa, from the UAL-Ta’al party, is proposing that all the Arab parties unite
under one ticket, in part as a buffer to the “extreme right-wing control” that
now has a hold on the Knesset, he said.
“I’ve gone out with a program to
all the Arab parties with a proposal to keep our individual positions but to run
on one united ticket. It’s not an easy feat, but it can be done,” Sanaa told The
“Today in the Knesset there are three Arab lists. Our
goal is to stop this unnecessary and excessive situation, which doesn’t serve
the Arab public. People want to see unity.”
In addition to his
party, which currently holds four Knesset seats, the Arab parties in the Knesset
include Hadash, a Communist party holding four seats, and Balad, or the National
As it is, UAL-Ta’al is a combined lists that
includes secular intellectuals such as Dr. Ahmed Tibi, and Islamists, such as
Ibrahim Sarsour, as well Sanaa, who is Beduin. Putting all of these ideological
streams under one big tent will be a complicated mission, analysts
Balad, meanwhile, faces difficulties in running its next
ticket. In the last elections, it barely passed the threshold, and polls
indicate it would experience a similar result in the present elections. It
remains unclear whether its most famous member, Haneen Zoabi, will be allowed to
Zoabi, who was on the Mavi Marmara flotilla from Turkey to Gaza in
2010, had some of her privileges as a Knesset member revoked as a
Likud MK Danny Danon asked the Central Elections Committee last
week to bar Zoabi (Balad) from running for the next Knesset, given her
participation in the flotilla.
Hanna Swaid, an MK from Hadash, says he’s
pleased that new elections have been called, because this government has few
economic or political achievements to show for its tenure.
“Now is the
time for elections, because this government failed in leading a responsible
economic policy. It did not do anything spectacular in the political arena
either – it did not make any progress whatsoever towards a peace agreement with
the Palestinians,” Swaid told the Post.
New figures demonstrating that
unemployment in the Arab sector is much higher than previously reported indicate
the extent of the economic crisis with which many Israeli-Arabs are faced, he
The share of Arabs among all unemployed Israelis is around 30
percent, twice that of earlier estimates, the Tel Aviv University’s Taub Center
Arab households are more than twice as likely to be under
the poverty line than their Jewish counterparts, according to Sikkuy, an
organization dedicated to Jewish-Arab equality in Israel.
tackle economic and social problems in separation from each other,” he said,
adding that the country’s economic problems “are the result of the neo-liberal
policies which characterize Netanyahu, and it needs to stop.” He also pointed to
the funding of settlement expansion at the expense of growth in Arab
“Regarding the Arab population, nothing serious has been
done to upgrade the Arab sector, in cities, town and villages,” Swaid added.
“Employment projects were not sustained by this government. The representation
of Arabs working in the public sector is 6 or 7%. We want to get it to 12, not
to speak of the 20 it should be. This government did very very little to
One of the biggest challenges for Arab parties will be
getting citizens out to vote. In the last election, voter participation stood at
around 50%. That’s an all-time low, down from the time of the election of
Yitzhak Rabin in 1992, when the participation was somewhere in the
MK Sanaa said that the Arab parties would work to underscore the
extent to which right-wing parties have gained ground in the Knesset, in order to
encourage a higher voter turn-out. “We have to get out from under the control of
the far-right wing. It’s important that we make people see that."