New Israeli-Arab party wants to partner with Yesh Atid

"I can't be on the far Left of the Israeli political scene and expect to be effective."

Mohammad Darawshe (photo credit: Courtesy)
Mohammad Darawshe
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A newly formed Arab-Israeli party called Ma’an would like to partner with centrist Jewish parties such as Yesh Atid, but only if they are committed to ending discrimination within Israeli society.
“We need to move to the center of Israeli society in order to legitimize ourselves, but mainly to create the capacity to be influential,” said Ma’an Party head Mohammad Darawshe, who is also the director of planning, equality and shared society at Givat Haviva.
The identification of Arab-Israeli parties and their politicians exclusively with the far Left of the Israeli political map has been a mistake, he said.
“I can’t be on the far Left of the Israeli political scene and expect to be effective,” Darawshe said.
Properly mobilized, the Arab-Israeli community could account for 20 mandates, he said, adding that Arab-Israeli voters “lack effectiveness, not numbers.”
A coalition of 20 Arab seats with partners that have the power of 20 seats is already a bloc of 40 seats, Darawshe said.
When asked if he would be willing to partner with the Yesh Atid Party headed by MK Yair Lapid, he said: “That’s an easy take: For sure, yes.”
Darawshe said he would also consider running with Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai’s left-wing Israelis Party. He was so positive about the idea that said he would even consider “partnership before the elections and to run jointly on one list.”
“We are not adamant about running alone,” Darawshe said. “We are organizing as if we are running alone, but we can partner with other Jewish political parties.”
But when it comes to the ability to partner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party, he was skeptical.
“He is the least likely candidate for us to be partnered with,” he said.
Netanyahu was behind the Nation-State Law and the Kaminitz Law, which enabled the demolition of illegal building and is used to demolish Arab buildings, Darawshe said.
Netanyahu used “anti-Arab rhetoric to help marginalize Arab citizens” and “is not trustworthy,” he said, adding that he did not want to work with people who were not trustworthy.
DARAWSHE SAID his past experience in politics has shown him that the closer the Arab parties are to the government, the greater their ability to enact change. But his Ma’an Party would only sit with parties that are committed to end discrimination and support equality for all Israeli citizens.
It is possible for Israel to maintain its identity as a Jewish and democratic state while at the same time offering equally to its citizens, he said.
The type of equality Darawshe said he seeks is precisely that described in Israel’s Declaration of Independence: that the country would “ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.”
Those words proclaimed at the state’s founding in 1948 should become a guiding motto for Israel politics in 2021, he said.
Israel has been a Jewish state for the last 72 years and should continue as such, but “it is about time that it is also an Israeli state,” Darawshe said.
Discrimination should be outlawed, and Arab-Israelis should receive equal resources for housing, land allocation, education, jobs and to combat crime, he said.
Some 47% of Arab-Israelis are below the poverty line, he added.
Darawshe said he ran campaigns in past elections for the Joint List to help get out the vote. He noted wryly that he had been so successful in 2015 that Netanyahu issued his well-known warning that Arab voters were “heading to the polls in droves” in direct response to his voter drive.
Darawshe, who lives in the village of Iksal, near Nazareth, said he decided to enter politics for his four children. One of them is studying business, another genetics, another dentistry and another is taking general studies. He is afraid that without a horizon of opportunity, they will emigrate to European or the United States.
“I want them to say home,” Darawshe said.