‘Center-Left voters not deterred by messages that appeal to Arab public’

Abraham Initiatives head says Blue and White’s Benny Gantz, if elected prime minister, could appoint an Arab minister

MK Ayman Odeh, the leader of Hadash-Ta'al Party, and Benny gantz, head of the Blue and White Party. (photo credit: REUTERS)
MK Ayman Odeh, the leader of Hadash-Ta'al Party, and Benny gantz, head of the Blue and White Party.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In a historic announcement, Joint List head Ayman Odeh recently said he may join a coalition formed by Blue and White leader Benny Gantz under certain circumstances. Now, research has found that the Jewish-Israeli public isn’t deterred by equality and political partnership with representatives of the Arab-Israeli public.
A study published on Thursday by Abraham Initiatives shows that Center-Left parties that appeal to the Arab public will not lose support among Jewish voters.
“Part of the mission of Abraham Initiatives is to increase Arab involvement in Israeli democratic processes,” explained the NGO’s co-executive director, Amnon Be’eri-Sulitzeanu. “Over the years, we would go to party leaders from across the political spectrum and explain to them that one of the reasons for lack of Arab voter turnout is that Arabs feel there is no efficacy in their vote.
“We would ask these leaders to address the Arab community, to tell the Arab population what he or she would do for them, that their voices are relevant and should be heard,” he continued. “The leaders would tell us that while they were personally receptive to this idea, they would not take action because it would turn off their Jewish voters.”
Be’eri-Sulitzeanu said that the leaders would say, “If we seem too pro-Arab, it will turn off our Jewish voters. We wanted to see if this was true. The results were even better than we expected.”
In the first part of the survey, participants were asked who they voted for in the April election.
Then they were exposed to advertisements that were allegedly published in an Arabic newspaper by Gantz. The ads presented the following four messages: a commitment to address issues of concern to Israeli society in general (ad 1, control); a desire to narrow economic gaps and address other problems of concern to the Arab population (2); a message of full equality and addressing racism (3); and a call for full political participation and equal representation of the Arab minority in Israel as part of the government.
Finally, participants were asked who they intend to vote for in next month’s election, and their answers were compared with their vote in the April election.
The research showed that the type of messages that voters were exposed to did not damage the level of support for the Center-Left party and that, with a margin of error, that support stayed largely the same.
One message, however, was even found to slightly increase voter support.
The message of equality and addressing racism led to an 11% increase in support for the Center-Left party among the Jewish participants.
“This is probably because the message is perceived as reflecting a more value-based position, thereby enhancing the image of the head of the party as someone who is credible, moral, honest and loyal,” wrote the NGO in a release.
The study, conducted by the aChord Center through the iPanel polling company between August 15 and 20, included 707 Jewish citizens who voted for Blue and White, Likud, Meretz, Labor, Kulanu or Yisrael Beytenu in April.
The survey findings complement the findings of a survey commissioned by the Abraham Initiatives in July together with Sikkuy and the aChord Center. That survey found that the most significant factor that would increase Arab-Israelis’ motivation to vote would be a declaration by the Center-Left parties placing importance on the Arabs-Israeli community as part of their platforms. This would include issues such as reducing violence and crime in Arab society; overturning the Nation-State Law; education; housing, land and house demolitions; and poverty and unemployment. Such a declaration could increase the motivation of 31% of Arab-Israelis to vote.
Be’eri-Sulitzeanu said the last survey found that only 7% of Arab-Israelis don’t vote in Israeli elections for ideological reasons.
“Now we have the tools to go with a full heart to the heads of these parties and say you will get more voters” if you address the Arab-Israeli community, he said.
He added that he does not expect the Arab parties to join any government, even a Gantz government, after the September 17 election, despite Odeh’s announcement. However, he said another option could be that if Gantz becomes the prime minister he would appoint one or two Arab ministers to his cabinet.
“The Arab parties won’t be a formal part of the coalition, but I could see them be a supportive bloc to a Center-Left government that addresses issues that help their constituents,” he said. “Arabs now know they have more political strength and they are ready to use it.”
The next stage of the survey will examine the impact of similar messages among right-wing voters.