Members of the Joint Arab List gesture during a news conference in Nazareth, January 23.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli Arab leaders expressed their frustration over the reelection of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and were not overjoyed by the results, even though Arabs managed to increase their representation in the Knesset.
Ta’al Party Chairman Ahmad Tibi, one of the top leaders of the Joint (Arab) List, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that “the results of the election are disappointing, as we thought that the Israeli public wanted change, but instead acted in a tribal way, and therefore we are left with Netanyahu.”
The public was also left with a poor political and economic reality, he said.
As for the Joint List, “it was something new to the voters,” he continued, adding that “13 seats is not a dramatic success, but the beginning of a path that could lead to future achievements.”
The media reported on Wednesday that the Joint List would receive 14 mandates, but Tibi said the number was likely to drop as soon as the soldiers’ votes were counted.
The Israel Democracy Institute stated that the number of Arab MKs was projected to increase by 29% for a total of 17, four of them coming from non-Arab parties.
Muhammad Darawshe – director of planning at the NGO Givat Haviva, which is dedicated to promoting mutual responsibility, civic equality and cooperation between divided groups in the country – told the Post on Sunday that on one hand, the election result was positive for the Arab community because of the increase in Arab voter turnout and the number of MKs.
However, on the other hand, the results demonstrated a problem in that there was a lack of Jewish partners supporting the Joint List, he said.
Another downside of the election for the Arab public, he went on, was the Right’s use of “anti-democratic and anti-Arab rhetoric that delegitimizes Arab citizenship and reduces the chance for civic equality and integration.”
Netanyahu’s rhetoric against Arabs was the same kind of talk that usually comes from Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman, Darawshe said, adding that it was not suitable for a prime minister to use.
At a press conference on the day before the election, Netanyahu stated that the Joint List did not consider Hamas a terrorist organization. If a leftwing government were established, he warned, “it would depend on these votes.”
He suggested on election day that left-wingers were trying to get Arab-Israeli voters out “in droves” to sway the election against him.
“I hope that the coming government will not last for too long, as its agenda won’t be one that sees Arabs as equals,” said Darawshe Netanyahu’s “scare tactics” made Arabs out to be demons and bordered on incitement, he continued, adding, “[Netanyahu] owes every citizen an apology.”
In addition, he complained, the prime minister “did not use the term ‘Arab’ in his victory speech,” but “referred to us only as ‘non-Jewish,’ which is an insult. We are not just on the margins of the Jewish people or in its shadow, we have our own identity.”
The bottom line, said Darawshe, is that Arabs will probably gain more committee representation, but since they won’t be part of a left-wing government, they will manage only minor achievements in the coming government.
“The sooner the next elections, the better,” he asserted.Reuters contributed to this report.