Meet the new MK: Emtanis Shihadeh of UAL-Balad

I was born to a political family that was involved in politics and part of a party.

Emtanis Shihadeh of UAL-Balad (photo credit: Courtesy)
Emtanis Shihadeh of UAL-Balad
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Name: Emtanis Shihadeh
Party: Balad (of the UAL-Balad faction)
Age: 47
Hometown: Born in Nazareth, lives in Osufiya
Family status: Married +3
Profession before becoming an MK: Doctor of Political Science, researcher of political economics, lecturer in political science and an academic manager at the Mada al-Carmel research center.

Why did you decide to enter politics? It wasn’t a choice; it was a process that began in ninth grade. I was born to a political family that was involved in politics and part of a party. I continued as a political activist at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and since then, I am in politics. It is a style of life and social involvement that have become part of my personality and everyday activities.
What are the first bills you plan to propose? In the next Knesset, my first priority will be the matter of employment and the lack of economic security in Palestinian society in Israel, and I will act for economic development of Arab towns. I will act to eradicate the phenomenon and increase the levels of employment and salaries in Arab society.
What was the most interesting experience on the campaign trail? The whole campaign was interesting and exciting, especially meeting with women and children in all of the towns and hearing their problems and needs. It is a great responsibility to try to solve those problems and meet their needs.
This election has been notable for especially negative campaigning. What do you hope to do to bring people together after these divisive months? In this election campaign we saw inciting and racist campaigns towards Arab society and its representatives from the right-wing parties - foremost among them [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and Likud, and from the parties claiming to be an alternative to Netanyahu with a goal of harming the authentic Arab representation in the Knesset.
The height of the incitement in the campaigns was in the Likud’s attempt to disrupt the election process in Arab society, trying to intimidate Arab voters and delegitimize political participation. We oppose these attempts and the incitement against Arab society and will continue to fight for our rights and for the representation of the needs of our voting public.

What is your position on US President Donald Trump’s expected peace plan and on a possible Palestinian state?  I oppose Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” that is meant to change the face of the Middle East and is meant to force a one-sided solution on the Palestinian people and erase the just battle for an independent state.
What should the government’s response be to growing global antisemitism? I oppose the phenomenon of antisemitism in the world. We in Balad have democratic and humanist values and sanctify the value of human rights. We oppose the discourse of incitement and the de-humanization of all groups. 
Do you support maintaining the status quo on religion and state – including issues like marriage, public transportation on Shabbat, kashrut, the Western Wall and others? We in Balad are for a state of all citizens, and we proposed a bill to that effect in the previous Knesset. As part of our bill, we support the separation of religion and state while protecting freedom of religion for all religious groups.
How do you think the government should address the matter of haredi (ultra-Orthodox) enlistment in the IDF? We oppose the mandatory draft and all wars, on principle.

What can be done to lower the cost of living?  Most of the state’s resources and public funds are invested in the army and settlements. In addition, they are distributed unequally between Jews and Arabs in areas of education, culture and health, and there is severe discrimination in employment and not enough workplaces for Arab citizens. This creates a situation in which over 50% of Arab citizens are under the poverty line, families cannot finish the month and the cost of living is very high.
I will act to reduce gaps in the economy and in employment, and will act to create jobs in Arab society. In addition, I will act to lower the cost of living and lower taxes on basic consumer products; institute government subsidies in the areas of education and health; and propose a progressive tax.