Arab parties seek last-minute deals

Hashem Mahameed, an Israeli Arab politician, sat near his phone surrounded by his supporters at his home in Umm el-Fahm Tuesday night. The head of the Brit Leumit Meuhedet party was hoping that one of the Arab parties would make him a good offer so he could make a coalition and bring the votes of his supporters with him. "I want to see what they are offering us," he told The Jerusalem Post as he waited for better offers. "Based on that, we will decide what is best for us," adding that the decision would be made by tomorrow morning. Mahameed, who served in Knessets 12-15, would not dare to run alone. He did that last Knesset and missed the threshold - burning some 20,000 Arab votes - and with them that much more influence for Israeli Arabs in the Knesset. The Israeli Arab politicians refer to it as the "Mahameed vote burning." With just two days until the registration of the parties ends, Israeli Arab politicians are scrambling to make last-minute decisions about coalitions. Following the raising of the threshold for this Knesset to 2%, all these politicians are worried that even the big parties might face a "Mahameed vote burning" if coalitions are not made. To prevent such an occurrence, negotiations have been taking place among all of the five Arab parties in the Knesset and with Arab politicians who are no longer in Knesset but can help round up votes. Late Monday night, the United Arab List, made up of the Islamic Movement's southern faction and the Mada party of Beduin MK Taleb a-Sanaa, joined forces with MK Ahmed Tibi's Taal party. Sheikh Ibrahim Sarsur gets the first place, followed by Tibi, then a-Sanaa. Sheikh Abbas Zakour of the Islamic Movement will have the fourth slot depending on negotiations with other parties. Now, both the UAL-Taal coalition and Hadash, an Arab-Jewish list set up by the Communist party, have offered Mahameed to join their list, but neither is offering the former MK a good spot. They want his supporters' votes, but they can't offer him a good seat, which they need to reserve for the coalition partners who are now in the Knesset. Meanwhile, Hadash (which now has 2 seats) and MK Azmi Bishara's Balad (which has 3 seats) are running alone. All the Arab politicians fear that if the two parties run alone, both may fail to pass the threshold. Nevertheless, negotiations between the two failed. "People feel now there is a real danger," said a source from the Taal-UAL coalition. "It will be a disaster for the Arab sector if the two parties don't get into the Knesset."