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.

MK Taleb 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 Jerusalem Post.

“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 Democratic Assembly.

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 say.

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 run.

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 result.

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 noted.

The share of Arabs among all unemployed Israelis is around 30 percent, twice that of earlier estimates, the Tel Aviv University’s Taub Center said Tuesday.

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.

“We cannot 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 municipalities.

“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 change this.”

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 80s.

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."

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