Israeli-Arab parties struggle to unite as one electoral list

Tibi: We are continuing serious talks toward this goal.

MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL - Ta'al) in the Knesset. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL - Ta'al) in the Knesset.
Israeli-Arab political parties continue to meet and are working hard to form a united bloc in the upcoming elections, but so far have been unable to overcome differences between them and within their own political factions.
The three Israeli Arab parties – United Arab List-Ta’al, Hadash and Balad – met again on Monday, but were unable to progress toward running together, much less agree on who would lead the new grouping for elections scheduled on March 17.
United Arab List-Ta’al head MK Ahmed Tibi told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that they “are continuing the serious talks with the goal of establishing a single list.”
Israeli-Arab MKs coming from the three parties have confirmed to the Post over the past few days that no agreement has been reached, but that intensive talks are continuing.
The decision to raise the electoral threshold to 3.25 percent of the vote has forced the parties to band together in order to win seats.
A political source with knowledge of the talks told the Post that a main sticking point remains whether to run one or two separate lists. If two lists run, then it would include a vote surplus-sharing agreement.
They are examining which option would bring more votes and gain the most seats in the Knesset, the source said.
Another issue requiring resolution is who would head a united list, or two separate lists.
Asked who should lead the united Arab party, Tibi responded that it should be based on popularity in the Arab sector, according to a primary or a poll because this is the most democratic method.
But Balad head Jamal Zahalka seemed to dismiss deciding things based on polling data or by holding primaries, telling the Post on Tuesday, “The list will be decided only according to the strength of parties and current representation in the Knesset.”
Fayez Eshtiwy, the owner and general manager of the popular Israeli-Arab news website Kul al-Arab at told the Post in an interview “the parties must unite.”
If the parties do not unite then each party would be at risk of not making it into the next Knesset, he said. Eshtiwy added the difficulty is that each party thinks it deserves to decide who will lead it and which members will be placed in top positions.
“We need to hold primaries so that Arabs can choose,” he asserted. He added he does not see it as a realistic option now for logistical reasons, and because the parties themselves prefer to decide among themselves. He claimed that for this reason a poll is the most realistic option.
Regarding leadership of a united bloc, Eshtiwy said Tibi is the most popular Arab politician, but if things are decided according to party power as it stands, Tibi may not win.
Eshtiwy said if Tibi would lose out on the top position, such a result could upset the Arab public.
According to recent data, Tibi is the most popular politician to lead a united party, Yousef Makladeh, CEO of Statnet, told the Post on Thursday.