Lending support to Arab politicians who have suggested that the three main Arab Knesset parties team up in January’s election, a new poll suggests that the majority of their voters think a united slate is a good idea.
According to the poll conducted by Dialog in the Arab sector during the month of October, 65 percent of respondents said they would prefer that all the Arab parties run on a united ticket. The poll, which surveyed 500 respondents across the Arab sector – including Beduin and Druse – found that 55% would like this list to be chaired by Dr. Ahmed Tibi, the head of Ta’al and of the United Arab List-Ta’al faction, while none of the others garnered more than 10% support.
The poll, carried out under Tel Aviv University professor Camille Fuchs, was commissioned by the Nazareth-based Kul al-Arab weekly newspaper.
Asked who they thought was the best Knesset member, 34% of respondents choose Tibi. The next most-popular MK was Haneen Zoabi (Balad), who took 11%. Ibrahim Sarsour (UAL-Ta’al) and Muhammad Barakei (Hadash) each got 7%, and Taleb a-Sanaa (UALTa’al) and Jamal Zahalka (Balad) garnered 5% each.
Smaller numbers of people chose Afo Agbaria (Hadash) and Masud Gnaim (UAL-Ta’al), who were mentioned by 3% of respondents, as well as Hanna Swaid (Hadash), 2%.
Only 1% of voters said they would vote for Zionist parties including Labor, the Likud, Kadima and Meretz.
The three Arab-dominated factions hold 11 seats in the outgoing Knesset – Hadash and UAL-Ta’al have four each, and Balad has three. Hadash says it is a binational party, and one of its MKs, Dov Henin, is Jewish.
Tibi said that while voters clearly show an interest in seeing the parties unite, such a goal still seems unlikely to be met.
“There are still some efforts to unite, but the chances of it succeeding are not so great, because in order to have one unified list, all parties should agree,” Tibi told The Jerusalem Post. “Our colleagues in Hadash believe that uniting our lists will not increase the percentage of Arab voters, because there if we’re all running together, there will be no competition – and less incentive to get out to vote. I believe the opposite, but I respect this attitude.”
Tibi said the parties did not agree on some issues of principle, but that personal interests did not stand in the way. “In the interest of uniting these parties, I’d gladly give someone else the top spot. My place is not important. I don’t need to be first.”
In a recent interview, Zoabi said her party would not join a combined list for several reasons, including that Tibi has “no ideology.”
Prof. Amal Jamal, a political scientist at Tel Aviv University, estimated that if the three Arab parties were to run together, they could gain two to four Knesset seats.
“Most people in the Arab public say that there’s no reason for these parties to run separately, because their platforms are very similar,” Amal said. “The average person in the Arab public doesn’t understand why they can’t run together. But whether it’s feasible or not is another story.”
Another analyst and academic, Dr. Yousef T. Jabareen of Dirasat, the Arab Center for Law and Policy, said he doesn’t foresee a substantial increase in the number of Arab-held seats in the Knesset.
“Even if it’s one list, I don’t think there will be major change in the number of Arabs in the Knesset, nor in their influence, because with current configuration they will continue to be in the opposition and on the margins of the decision-making process,” he said.