Obstacles loom as Arab parties begin efforts to unite

UAL-Ta’al doesn’t want to close door on Balad, which has problematic relations with Hadash.

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 are already jostling for influence despite numerous obstacles, in efforts to unite forces ahead of the next election, as the raising of the electoral threshold to 3.25 percent of the vote coerces them to join forces.
A researcher of Israeli Arab politics, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that the Arab nationalist Balad party “badly needs a coalition with other Israeli Arab parties because they only received 2.6% of the vote in the last election [in 2013].”
“They [Balad] are pushing harder than Hadash or United Arab List-Ta’al for a coalition,” said the researcher, adding that “the chance for unity is not great.”
“Balad is trying to form a coalition with Hadash or United Arab List-Ta’al. There are some in Balad who are calling for a boycott of the upcoming elections,” the researcher claimed.
Hadash is in a similar situation, receiving just 3% of the vote, and “also needs a coalition, but they won’t go with Balad.”
One plan that is being floated is a national poll of the Israeli Arab public, which would decide the make-up of a united Arab list.
A source from the Islamic Movement said United Arab List-Ta’al supports one list.
Balad faction leader Jamal Zahalka previously told the Post that the party seeks a coalition for the upcoming elections due to the raised threshold law that passed in March.
Amal Jamal, head of the International Graduate Program on Political Science and Political Communication at Tel Aviv University, told the Post that “all three parties cannot pass the threshold alone and there is no interest from them to unite with a Jewish party like Meretz.”
“No one would dare do that,” he said.
The Arab public wants a united party or list, he says, and so Balad, Hadash, and United Arab List-Ta’al are limited in their actions. “If one decides to go it alone, they will be blamed for it.”
“A leading politician told me that the most important matter is who invites whom, who initiates,” as that demonstrates “they have the upper hand.”
While it may be a bit early for coalition building for the next election, building an Israeli Arab coalition will take time and “they do not want to wait until the last minute,” he said.
Jamal pointed out that a serious change is in the works in the Hadash party, set to occur in March, when two of its MKs (Muhammad Barakei and Hanna Swaid) are set to rotate out for two others.
Under such conditions, initiating anything new in this period is unlikely.
A knowledgeable source told the Post that what is happening behind the scenes is that “Balad does not want to do something with [United Arab List-Ta’al MK Ahmed] Tibi,” though” it does want to unite with the United Arab List-Ta’al.”
However, he added, “Tibi is very popular” and so United Arab List-Ta’al is not going to remove him.
At the same time, “United Arab List-Ta’al does not want to close the door on Balad, who they know has very problematic relations with Hadash.”
And Hadash is reluctant to join the Islamic oriented United Arab List-Ta’al, said the source.
Hadash would prefer to get Tibi’s agreement by offering his party two seats with a realistic chance to get in so that it does not have to unite with Balad, according to the source.
“Hadash won’t take the risk of running alone and will unite with at least one other party, the preference being Tibi’s.”