Analysis: Ideologically divided Joint List to shy away from controversial issues

Dr. Mordechai Kedar to ‘Post’: Arab bloc is full of contradictions that will prevent it from becoming a formidable force in Israeli politics.

May 4, 2015 02:54
2 minute read.
A WOMAN walks past a campaign billboard for the Joint (Arab) List in Umm el-Fahm yesterday

A WOMAN walks past a campaign billboard for the Joint (Arab) List in Umm el-Fahm yesterday. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Joint (Arab) List, which is divided ideologically between Islamists, nationalists, and communists, is likely to focus on narrow local issues in the upcoming Knesset, where common ground can be found so as not to fall into unbridgeable disagreements.

The United Arab List, Ta’al, Hadash, and Balad parties struck a historic deal before the election to run as a united bloc – the decision to raise the electoral threshold to 3.25 percent of the vote and pressure from the Arab public forced the parties to band together – but internal divisions could lead to dysfunction or break up.

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In the latest outreach to the Jewish population, Joint List and Hadash head Ayman Odeh and his colleague, Jewish Hadash MK Dov Henin, took part in the Ethiopian protest against racism in Tel Aviv on Sunday. The Hadash party was quick to tweet a picture of the two walking in the protest.

This follows the pattern, present since the election campaign and spearheaded by the Jewish-Arab Hadash, of reaching out to the Jewish public.

However, largely absent from most of this activity has been the Islamist UAL party headed by Masud Gnaim, the head of the southern Islamic Movement. In another case, prior to the election, Balad was reportedly behind the move to block a vote-sharing agreement with Meretz that Odeh supported.

Mordechai Kedar, director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam, which is under formation, and a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, told The Jerusalem Post that despite becoming the third-largest faction in the Knesset, the Joint List is full of contradictions that will prevent it from becoming a formidable force in Israeli politics.

For example, he noted, the more secular and nationalist Balad, which includes Christian MK Basel Ghattas and a woman, Haneen Zoabi, is fundamentally anathema to the UAL party, as the Islamic Movement’s ideology does not conform to a Christian or a woman holding a high political position.

To illustrate his point, Kedar pointed to the recent debacle when the Joint List rejected an invitation to the Arab League after internal disagreements scuttled any chance of attending the meeting in either Qatar or Egypt.

Such a visit to Qatar, which supports Islamists, would have angered the other powers in the Gulf, as well as Egypt. Additionally, many Palestinians support the Syrian regime against the Islamist- dominated rebels that have overrun the Palestinian refugee camp in Yarmuk.

The Islamist UAL, on the other hand, which is an outgrowth from the Muslim Brotherhood movement founded in Egypt, would be loath to attend the event in Cairo, where a harsh crackdown on the Brotherhood movement has been ongoing.

Hence, Kedar predicts that the Joint List’s moves in the upcoming Knesset will be limited to areas where all can agree, such as battling against racism and other domestic Arab grievances.

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