Arab candidates expressed concern over low voter turnout in the Arab community, where many residents said they have lost confidence in their representatives.
By 2:00 p.m., only 13% of eligible voters in the Arab sector had cast their ballots, prompting the two main blocs – the Joint List and the breakaway United Arab List (Ra’am), headed by MK Mansour Abbas – to warn of a “disaster” due to the low turnout.
Some candidates and their supporters predicted that the percentage of the vote in the Arab community would be less than 50%, compared with 65% in the last election.
“This is a very dangerous phenomenon because it means that the Joint List may get only six seats, while Mansour Abbas is unlikely to past the electoral threshold,” said Hisham Mahameed, a resident of Umm el-Fahm and a member of the Joint List. “We are hoping that the Arabs will wake up and realize that we could be headed toward a disaster.”In exit polls released after ballots closed, the Joint List received eight seats according to Channel 13 and nine seats according to Channel 12.
Mahameed and several residents of Umm el-Fahm said Abbas was responsible for the indifference among Arab-Israelis.
Abbas quit the Joint List earlier this year after he indicated his willingness to join a coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The split in the Joint List has driven away scores of its Arab supporters, many of whom on Tuesday said the Arab MKs did not care about their constituents.
“The Arab Knesset members care only about their seats and salaries,” said Ayman Haj Hayha, a university student from Taiba. “In the past, I voted three times for the Joint List. This time I’m voting for Meretz. The Arab representatives have been busy fighting among themselves, while the Arab sector is facing serious problems, first and foremost an increase in violent crime.”
Some Arab-Israelis predicted that the Joint List, headed by MK Ayman Odeh, would get between seven and eight seats as a result of the low voter turnout and widespread disillusionment with the performance of Arab MKs.
In the 2015 election, the Joint List became the third-largest party in the Knesset after it won 13 seats. In the 2020 election, it increased the number of its seats from 13 to 15, remaining the third-largest party until Yesh Atid split off from Blue and White to lead the opposition.
The departure of Abbas’s party left the Joint List with three parties: Balad, Hadash and Ta’al.
Recent public opinion polls showed that the Joint List would get eight to 10 seats, while Abbas’s Ra’am might not pass the electoral threshold.
After voting in his hometown of Maghar in the Galilee, Abbas expressed optimism that his party would pass the threshold.
“We have high hopes that the Arab voters will go to the polling stations,” he said. “I urge them to give us enough votes so that we could play an important and influential role in the decision-making process.”
Arab-Israelis deserve representatives who would serve the interests of the Arab sector and find solutions for its problems, especially the high rate of crime and the housing crisis, Abbas said.
Reflecting deep concern over the low turnout in the Arab community, Ra’am later issued a statement in which it claimed that its polling cards had “disappeared” from several voting stations. “They won’t be able to hide the Arab vote,” the statement read, without providing additional details.
Ra’am’s No. 2, Mazen Ghanayem, warned that the low turnout in the Arab sector would “mean more extremist members in the Knesset.”
Turnout in the Arab sector had reached 20% by Tuesday afternoon, political analyst Afif Abu Much of Baka al-Gharbiya said, based on his information. He attributed the low turnout to Netanyahu’s “successful strategy to anesthetize the Arabs.”
In the past, Netanyahu “incited” against the Arabs, Abu Much said.
“This time, he changed his strategy and appealed to the Arabs to vote for him,” he said. “The members of the Joint List were never a good enough trigger to get voters out. In addition, the left-wing and centrist parties were dumb enough to run away from the Arabs.”