Can Israel's Arab parties stick together despite infighting?

The Joint List is in turmoil and its infighting has gone public.

July 31, 2017 13:40
2 minute read.
Can Israel's Arab parties stick together despite infighting?

Israeli Arab lawmakers from the Joint Arab List (from L to R) Osama Saadi, Ahmed Tibi, Ayman Odeh, Masud Ganaim and Haneen Zoabi stand in front of the Dome of the Rock during a visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City July 28, 2015. . (photo credit: REUTERS)

The complex agreement binding the Arab parties that make up the Joint List began is fraying at the edges, with a rotation of MKs put on hold.

Last week, Joint List lawmakers Osama Sa’adi and Abdullah Abu Marouf were supposed to resign and be replaced by two new MKs.

However, since MK Basel Ghattas (Balad) resigned from the Knesset earlier this year, after being convicted of smuggling cellphones and documents to Palestinian security prisoners, the Joint List is in turmoil over who should resign or not.

The Joint List is made up of four parties: Communist Hadash with five seats, which includes the list’s one Jewish lawmaker (Dov Henin), Islamist United Arab List with three, Arab-nationalist Balad with three, and MK Ahmad Tibi’s Ta’al with two.

An agreement made between the parties before the 2015 election would have had Saadi of Ta’al and Abu Marouf of Hadash resign and be replaced with Juma Azbarga of Balad and Saeed Alharomi of UAL, giving Hadash, Balad and UAL four MKs each, and one from Ta’al. But Ghattas was replaced in the Knesset by Azbarga, because he was next on the Knesset candidates list, and that threw the deal into disarray.

To keep to the spirit of the agreement, Nivin Abu Rahmon of Balad would enter the Knesset, becoming the Joint List’s third female lawmaker. But there are three other people ahead of her on the bloc’s candidates list, who would have to resign to make way for her.

Each party in the Joint List has its own interests, and obviously they each want maximum representation in the Knesset, so they have different interpretations of how the rotation would go in light of Ghattas’s departure, and, of course, each claims that it is hewing closest to the original agreement.

Balad expects the three people ahead of Abu Rahmon on the list to resign.

An official statement from Ta’al says that “the party is committed to enacting the rotation agreement as one unit, including its part of the agreement.” In keeping with that, Sa’adi sent a letter to the Joint List’s “Reconciliation Committee,” which deals with disputes between the parties, expressing willingness to resign last week. But the party refuse to pull its candidate ahead of Abu Rahmon from the list.

UAL demands that the agreement be implemented so Alharomi can become an MK, and is willing to discuss having someone lower down the list resign to get a Balad lawmaker in.

Hadash has already announced that Abu Marouf will resign by Thursday, and the Reconciliation Committee has called on Sa’adi to do the same.

At this point, it’s unclear what the faction will look like next week, but what’s apparent is that the Joint List’s infighting, which has been going on since the parties ran together in 2015, has gone public. That could have serious consequences for whether they stay together in the future.

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