Hadash at the crossroads

Polls consistently show that Arab citizens want the Joint List to emphasize the constructive policies that the Hadash mayors undertook.

March 9, 2015 21:56
3 minute read.

Nazareth . (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

For a number of years, Hadash mayors worked constructively with government ministries to improve the economic wellbeing of their residents. The shining example was Mayor Ramiz Jaraisy, who helped transform Nazareth into a hi-tech hub for Arab workers and entrepreneurs. As a result of these and other efforts, Israeli Arabs had a substantial increase in their family incomes and employment status. Surveys indicate that they believed that their economic well-being had increased substantially. In particular, the share of Israeli Arabs who were “very satisfied” with their economic conditions rose from 40 percent during the two-year period 2004-5 to 60% during 2010-11.

Over the past few years, a number of Hadash mayors were defeated and it seems that the lesson drawn was that the party was too far out in front of the sentiment of religious and nationalist leaders. As a result, Hadash was drawn into the Arab Joint List, with potentially unfortunate consequences.

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Polls consistently show that Arab citizens want the Joint List to emphasize the constructive policies that the Hadash mayors undertook. The Arab populace desires the economic and educational advances to continue.

They want the Joint List to follow the constructive efforts of Sikkuy-The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality. When individuals were unfairly fired for statements made during last summer’s Gaza war, every one of the individuals that allowed Sikkuy to bring their cases to the courts won their jobs back. While nationalists rail against the unfair tax formulas that constrain Arab towns, it was Sikkuy, with Injaz, that documented these inequities, forcing the head of the tax authority to publicly admit that the current funding formula was unfair and should be changed.

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These are the efforts that Arab citizens desire; the efforts that will move them forward. However, these are the efforts that would split the Joint List coalition.

Its decision to reject being part of the Zionist Union-led government without listing realistic demands indicated it is a protest movement unable to choose the path of constructive engagement. In particular, the reasons given were the presentation of maximalist demands for a Palestinian state, including the elimination of the security barrier.

If it were a constructive party, the Joint List would have made specific demands: elimination of settlements beyond the security barrier and turning over more land to Palestinian control. Most importantly, it would have made demands on the domestic economy: control of the Education Ministry so that the hiring of Arab teachers could be advanced; a commitment for the tax ministry to change the Arab town funding formula that it admits is unfair. Whether or not this strategy would be successful, this is the approach a responsible political party would pursue, and it is these policies the Arab populace desires.

Hadash leader Ayman Odeh hopes the Joint List could lead the parliamentary opposition and that its legislators would be able to demand membership in important committees. How realistic is this if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition is successful? And even if somehow the Zionist Union formed a minority government (which would depend on convincing Koolanu to support it), Hadash would face opposition from within the Joint List coalition. After all, the Zionist Union would not offer any ministries to members of Balad.

The problem, of course, is this constructive approach is diametrically opposed by Balad. Balad has no interest in constructive engagement; it has no interest in defeating the new, more right-wing Netanyahu coalition. Indeed, it desires the most right-wing government possible so that Balad can convince more Israeli Arabs to reject pursuing reforms that will increase their integration into Israeli society. Thus, the tail (Balad) maybe waving the dog (Hadash) to the detriment of Israeli Arab populace.

The author is Stern Professor at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center.

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