Survey finds that as many as 74% of Arab Israelis could vote in September

Polls shows one-third of Arab citizens of Israel are still undecided about heading to the ballot box, but they could be persuaded.

An Israeli-Arab father casts a ballot together with his children, as Israelis vote in a parliamentary election, at a polling station in Umm al-Fahm, Israel April 9, 2019 (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
An Israeli-Arab father casts a ballot together with his children, as Israelis vote in a parliamentary election, at a polling station in Umm al-Fahm, Israel April 9, 2019
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
Nearly one-third (32%) of Arab citizens are undecided about whether to vote in the September 17 election, according to a new survey by the Abraham Initiatives, Sikkuy and aChord. The survey found that 42% of Arab-Israelis intend to vote and 26% do not.
According to the report, the most significant factor that would increase Arab-Israeli’s motivation to vote would be a declaration by the Center-Left parties placing importance on the Arabs-Israeli community as part of their platforms.
This would include issues such as reducing violence and crime in Arab society; overturning the Nation-State Law; education; housing, land and house demolitions; and poverty and unemployment. Such a declaration could increase the motivation of 31% of Arab-Israelis to vote.
 A declaration by the Center-Left parties inviting the Arab parties to join a coalition, could bring another 19% of potential voters, the survey found.
Dr. Thabet Abu Rass, co-executive director of the Abraham Initiatives, said that voting interest of Arab-Israelis seems to be on the rise in comparison to the April election. Similarly, he said that candidates seem to be taking more of an interest in potential Arab-Israeli voters.
On Monday, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz was interviewed on a major Arabic TV program, for example. Ehud Barak apologized for his role in the violent thwarting of Palestinian riots that resulted in 13 Arab demonstrators being shot by police nearly two decades ago.
“The party leaders have to connect to the Arab people,” said Abu Rass. “We call it inclusive messaging.”
In the last election, only 49% of eligible Arab-Israeli voters cast their ballots, he explained. In 2015, however, some 64% of Arab-Israelis voted.
In the 2015 election, 83% of Arab-Israeli voters selected the Joint List of Arab parties, and 17% voted for what Abu Rass calls “Zionist parties.” The latter number jumped in the April 2019 election, when 30% of Arab voters chose Jewish parties.
“Arabs could decide to vote for Meretz or Labor,” Abu Rass said, and “even as much as 40% of Arabs could vote for Zionist parties... It’s a win-win situation if we increase voter turnout.”
Abu Rass said that the goal for the Joint List is to increase from 10 seats to as many as 14, not so that they would be asked to join a government – though this is not off the table – but to improve the chances that the right-wing bloc will not be able to form a coalition. “They want to stop Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from getting 61 seats,” he said.
The survey also found that 34% of those who said they did not vote in April, chose not to because they felt “my vote is pointless.” Only 14% of those who did not vote in April 2019 did so for ideological reasons, accounting for just 7% of the entire Arab-Israeli electorate.
The survey included 1,055 Arab citizens eligible to vote in the election. The sample was representative in terms of sex; of all age groups from 18 up; of four geographical areas: the Galilee, the “Triangle,” the Negev, and the mixed cities; and of religion – Muslims, Christians and Druze.
It was conducted between July 12 and 19, before the announcement of the revival of the Joint List. The survey found that forming the Joint List would encourage approximately one-fourth of respondents to cast their vote.
“Against the background of the government’s attempts to restrict Arab citizens’ political representation, our survey shows that most Arab citizens are planning or considering to vote,” said Amjad Shbita and Ron Gerlitz, co-executive directors of Sikkuy: The Association for the Advancement of Civil Equality, in a statement. They noted that voting “is the most effective way to struggle for equality, a shared society, an end to the occupation and guarding democratic values.”
Abu Rass and his co-executive director, Amnon Beeri-Sulitzeanu, added “We urge the political parties to rethink their attitude toward the Arab citizens and to make a serious commitment to address the urgent problems of Arab society.”