Israel election: Will Hadash-Ta'al recommend Lapid or Gantz?

Yisrael Beytenu initiates procedure to block Balad's Abou Shahadeh from running in the Israeli elections.

MK Ayman Odeh, co-head of the Israeli-Arab Hadash-Ta'al party at a rally supporting the Supreme Court in Tel Aviv, May 25, 2019 (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)
MK Ayman Odeh, co-head of the Israeli-Arab Hadash-Ta'al party at a rally supporting the Supreme Court in Tel Aviv, May 25, 2019
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)

The way the election campaigns are currently unfolding, Hadash-Ta’al will neither recommend Prime Minister Yair Lapid nor Defense Minister Benny Gantz to receive a mandate from the president to form a government following the November 1 election, Hadash chairman MK Ayman Odeh and Ta’al chairman MK Ahmad Tibi said on Sunday.

“Our position is very simple,” Odeh said on Army Radio. “There is no doubt that we do not want to see [Itamar] Ben-Gvir and [Bezalel] Smotrich and that whole group rise to power. But that does not mean that we will recommend Lapid or Gantz.”

“With Lapid and Gantz it is a completely different story. In other words, with their current positions, they will not be receiving our recommendation,” Odeh added.

Odeh’s comments came following the last-minute high-drama on Thursday night when the Joint List ended up splitting in two in the hours leading up to the midnight deadline for parties to hand in their lists. With the more extreme and separatist Balad no longer a part of the list, speculation arose as to whether the other two parties would lend their support to one of the prime ministerial candidates.

Neither Tibi nor Odeh ruled out recommending Lapid as prime minister after the election. However, both said their chief goal was not cooperation with Lapid, but blocking the Religious Zionist Party headed by Smotrich and Ben-Gvir from gaining power. In order to do so, both said they will focus on increasing the low voting rates in the Arab-Israeli sector since that alone should be enough to prevent a narrow right-wing government.

 MK SAMI Abu Shehadeh of the Joint List (wearing a jacket) poses at a meeting he chaired in the Knesset recently on the issue of Jaffa evictions. (credit: ELANA SZTOKMAN) MK SAMI Abu Shehadeh of the Joint List (wearing a jacket) poses at a meeting he chaired in the Knesset recently on the issue of Jaffa evictions. (credit: ELANA SZTOKMAN)

“I do not know if we will end up in that situation [where they will be asked to recommend Lapid]. I don’t know what the election results will be,” Tibi said in an interview on KAN Radio.

“We did this in the past, and it did not work out... but we want to be part of the parliamentary game, because we are parliamentarians, members of Knesset, to bring the best results to the public that sends us to the Knesset. We did this during the past year from the opposition, we were not part of the coalition,” he concluded.

Hadash and Balad initially reached an agreement last week to run together, but the three parties eventually announced that they had agreed on a joint run. However, at the last-minute Hadash and Ta’al handed in a joint list, and Balad was left behind. Both Odeh and Tibi claimed on Sunday it was Balad that backed out at the last moment and demanded a change to the agreement.

According to Tibi, the initial agreement was that the sixth spot on the list was supposed to be shared in a three-way rotation between the parties. MK Sami Abou Shahadeh demanded that it only be a two-way rotation between his Balad and Hadash, without Ta’al. This was the cause of the breakup, Tibi said. Abou Shahadeh’s about-face was because of internal party pressures, Tibi added.

Abou Shahadeh, however, blamed Tibi and Odeh for deserting him in order to cooperate with Lapid. He even accused Lapid of getting involved behind the scenes in order to pry the two parties away from the Balad Party that insisted on ruling out any cooperation with Zionist parties. Yesh Atid denied that Lapid had been involved.

Will an Arab party head be blocked from running?

Yisrael Beytenu – headed by Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman – published a document on Sunday calling on the members of the Central Election Committee to join a request to block Abou Shahadeh from running in the upcoming election.

"The attempt to shut down Abou Shahadeh's voice in the political arena by Liberman — the architect of Lapid's government - proves that the Israeli political system does not want to see Balad as a part of it and wants to stifle the nationalist and democratic Arab voice."

Balad

According to protocol, Yisrael Beytenu requires at least a third of the committee, which means 10 signatures, to initiate the disqualification process. The party has two representatives in the committee.

“The attempt to shut down Abou Shahadeh’s voice in the political arena by Liberman – the architect of Lapid’s government – proves that the Israeli political system does not want to see Balad as a part of it and wants to stifle the nationalist and democratic Arab voice,” the Balad Party responded.

“There is no difference between the [opposition leader Benjamin] Netanyahu and Lapid-Liberman government,” it added. “So the Arab sector must decide between the camp advocating for a state for all its citizens, led by Sami Abou Shahadeh, or the camp pushing for Gantz and Lapid,” it stated.

Abou Shahadeh charged on KAN Radio on Sunday that “Liberman is in a difficult situation and is attacking us in order to make headlines.”

Hadash-Ta’al announced that it would oppose the request.

“We will stand by Balad,” Hadash chairman Odeh said on Army Radio. “They are not extreme if they were born in this country and want a ‘state of all its citizens,’” he said.

Tibi added on KAN Radio, “Hadash-Ta’al is opposed to the fascist and racist request by Liberman to block MK Sami Abou Shahadeh.”

On the other hand, the Likud said on Sunday that not only would it support blocking Abou Shahadeh, but it would file requests to block all of the Arab parties, including Ra’am, which is currently in the coalition.

The request to block Abou Shahadeh was based on calls he made in the past to cancel Israel’s Jewish character, including its Jewish symbols, according to Yisrael Beytenu’s spokesman.

Decisions to block any person or party from running nearly always face appeals, and the High Court justices are the ones who make the final decision. The court rarely blocks candidates and nearly always overturns the Election Committee’s decisions to do so. Exceptions include far-right Michael Ben-Ari ahead of the April 2019 election, and Baruch Marzel and Bentzi Gopstein ahead of the September 2019 election.

With Balad not expected to pass the electoral threshold, it is expected to waste votes for the anti-Netanyahu bloc if it does not drop out of the race. Ironically, this means the Netanyahu bloc actually has an incentive for Balad to run, while the Lapid bloc has an incentive to block it.