Israeli Arab parties seek unity for upcoming elections

Balad head Jamal Zahalka and United Arab List-Ta’al head Ibrahim Sarsur say their parties seek joint list.

Haneen Zoabi and Jamal Zahalka (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Haneen Zoabi and Jamal Zahalka
The Knesset’s three Israeli Arab parties – United Arab List- Ta’al, Hadash and Balad – met on Tuesday to discuss running as a united bloc in the upcoming elections.
A statement from Balad following the meeting said the party had stressed the importance of unity in response to the Right, which it claimed had tried to damage Arab representation by raising the electoral threshold.
“Those who did not want 11 [Arab] MKs will get 15,” read the statement.
The party’s chairman, MK Jamal Zahalka, said he was “optimistic” and that there was “a high chance of reaching a joint list. It is important to emphasize that nobody said no to the idea of unity.”
The decision to raise the electoral threshold to 3.25% of the vote forces the parties to band together in order to win seats.
UAL-Ta’al head Ibrahim Sarsur told the Post that his party’s position, as presented at the meeting in his party’s faction room at the Knesset, was the same as Balad’s.
Balad MK Haneen Zoabi told the Post on Tuesday that the purpose of the meeting was to develop a strategy to counter the “Jewish State” bill, but that the issue of early elections had of course been discussed.
“We talked about the need to unite our political power and create a political consensus that will struggle against the raging racism and violence that is intensifying on the extreme Right,” she said.
Zoabi asserted that the Arab parties needed to think outside the box. “We have to abandon the classical tools of our struggle and develop other ones that are based on consensus and united Arab political power.”
Moreover, she said, more cooperation with the Left was necessary.
She acknowledged that a joint Arab list would not remove the differences among the parties, but would serve as “an essential tool for our political empowerment.”
A political source who did not want to be identified said there was a strong likelihood that the three parties would unite in a single list.
In this context, Zoabi said that “our position on this matter [of unity] is clear. However, some of the parties asked for more time to make a decision.”
Arab parties have been discussing joining forces for some time now. In October, Amal Jamal, head of the International Graduate Program on Political Science and Political Communication at Tel Aviv University, told the Post “all three parties cannot pass the threshold alone, and there is no interest from them to unite with a Jewish party like Meretz.”
The Arab public wants a united party or list, he said, so Balad, Hadash and UAL-Ta’al are limited in their actions.
“If one decides to go it alone, they will be blamed for it,” he said.