(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israeli Arab parties continue to be hampered by internal disputes which are preventing them from coming to an agreement on a united list, but Balad MK Haneen Zoabi on Tuesday played down the divisiveness.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Zoabi said the internal party primary process is a natural one and that as soon as it is completed Arab unity would be possible.
“There is a real will to form a united Arab list,” she said, calling this “a historic achievement.| The union will bring more mandates so everyone wins, Zoabi said, asserting that it, therefore, doesn’t matter who is ahead of whom in the race.
Separately, she criticized former Labor Knesset speaker Avraham Burg for preaching to the Arabs about what they should do, saying he should respect their decision to form a united list.
The parties – United Arab List- Ta’al, Hadash and Balad – have been unable to close a deal to run together, much less agree on who would lead the new grouping in the election.
A decision to raise the electoral threshold to 3.25 percent of the vote to win seats in the Knesset has forced the parties to band together.
However, Ghada Zoabi, the founder and CEO of the Israeli Arab news portal Bokra.net, told the Post on Tuesday the inability of the parties to unite is frustrating the Arab public and that turnout in the sector is likely to be lower if unity is not achieved.
Balad MK Basel Ghattas, in an interview with Bokra.net on Thursday, said he would like to run for the leadership of his party and replace current head Jamal Zahalka. A political source told the Post Ghattas would not lead the party.
If Zahalka withdraws his candidacy or fails to get the required support of 60 percent, Ghattas had said “I see myself as a candidate for the first spot.”
Zahalka has not yet gathered the support needed to assure himself another term as party head, a knowledgeable political source told the Post last month.
A Balad source told the Post on Tuesday that there are “internal issues” within the party – a struggle and fight between Ghattas and Zahalka and Ghattas and Zoabi. If Ghattas does not win the first spot, he would run for the second place against Zoabi – “a street fight,” adding that this is delaying everything.”
Arab politicians only make promises, but don’t follow through and are more interested in their egos, a source from the Arab sector told the Post.
The Arab-Jewish Hadash party has internal problems since Muhammad Barakei wants to retain his position leading the party after he had indicated previously he would step down.
There is disagreement over this decision, according to the source.
Regarding Burg, the source asserts that he joined the communist party in order to add new life, but that there are supporters that are not happy to see him there.
As for United Arab List-Ta’al head MK Ahmed Tibi, the source says there is talk now that his faction, Ta’al could unite with Hadash, while Balad unites with the Islamic Movement but noted that nothing is finalized and that anything could still happen.
Meanwhile, a Hadash source said “the delay in Barakei’s decision [on whether to run for the leadership] is causing us damage, but we are a transparent democratic party with institutions.
“In the coming days, we must decide whether he [Barakei] runs. He needs to win 66% of Hadash council members’ votes to run again, and this is a major impediment,” the Hadash source said, explaining that MK Hanna Swaid is against Barakei and called on him to step down as he had previously committed.