Ali Salalha, a Druze representative from Meretz and a candidate on the Democratic Union slate, tendered his resignation last week, saying that Arab voters will not give their vote to former prime minister Ehud Barak, Haaretz reported on Sunday.
According to Israeli media sources, Salalha wrote in his resignation letter that, "in light of the circumstances [that the Democratic Union has] created, and after consulting with my friends and supporters: Druze, Muslim and Christian Arabs of all regions, I have decided that my moral obligation was to resign and respect the will of those who gave me their vote last April."
Salalha joined the left-wing party in 2019 after twenty years as the principal of the Beit Jann comprehensive high school in Beit Jann, a Druze village in the Galilee. Despite managing to slip into the fifth spot on the Meretz list in the April elections, Salalha didn't make it into the Knesset.
After Meretz joined the Democratic Union, Ali Salalha dropped to the 20th spot on the list, making it difficult for him to become an MK. "All of a sudden you drop the media star of the previous election – the legendary school principal that made the Druze school system the best in the country?" Salalha told Haaretz.
In the last election, Meretz, the only Zionist party in the Knesset to place both a Muslim and a Druze in its top five, gathered only four seats, which are roughly 156,000 votes. Without the support of Arab voters, which comprise 27% of its electorate, it would not have passed the electoral threshold, never making it to the Knesset.
According to the paper, Salalha does not believe that the Democratic Union will manage to gather significant support among Arab and Bedouin voters due to its merger with Ehud Barak, whom many Israeli Arabs see as responsible for the killing of 12 Israeli citizens and one Palestinian in the October events of 2000 that led to the Second Intifada.
Issawi Freij, a member of Meretz and a candidate from the Democratic Union, expressed his disappointment over Salalha's resignation, saying that he is "very sorry our friend Ali left us in this difficult moment, in which we should all be united for a common cause."
Freij himself has protested Barak's return to politics, saying that, "for the last 19 years, Ehud Barak, [who was] the prime minister at the time of the protests, hasn't thought that the Arab citizens of Israel deserve an apology."
"[Barak] was aware of the severity of [the] harm [the events caused] and of how hurtful it was that the ones behind them was a left-wing prime minister," Freij said in July.
"Now, when he sees that the mark the events left haunts him and might leave him without a merger, he decided to apologize" said Freij. "But it is not a genuine apology. It is a condescending, patronizing one."