Likud, Israel Beiteinu made gains in Druse/Arab sectors, report shows

Overall support for Zionist parties drops by 10 percent.

East Jerusalem Arabs vote (photo credit: Channel 1 [file])
East Jerusalem Arabs vote
(photo credit: Channel 1 [file])
Likud and Israel Beiteinu garnered a higher percentage of the Israeli-Arab and Druse vote in February's elections than they did in 2006, despite considerable losses in sector support by other Zionist parties, according to a report published last week by Tel Aviv University's Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation. In fact, Israel Beiteinu received slightly more Arab and Druse votes than did the Likud. The party's leader, Avigdor Lieberman, is billed as anti-Arab by many in the country's Arab sector. The gains are due, at least in part, to the two parties capturing a higher percentage of the Druse electorate this year. But overall, the Zionist parties saw a significant decrease in support from Arab-Israeli voters, from about 28% of the sector in the 2006 elections to about 18% in 2009. The Labor Party incurred the heaviest losses, from 12.8% of the Israeli-Arab and Druse vote in 2006 to just 4.6% in 2009. Kadima's support declined from 6.8% to 3.7%, while support for Meretz waned from 2.8% to 1.4%. The decrease in Arab support for Zionist parties began following the January 2000 riots that left 13 Arabs dead, said Arik Rudnitzky, project manager of the Adenauer Program. But during this election cycle, Arab and mixed Arab-Jewish parties launched a particularly aggressive campaign against the Zionist parties, arguing that Arab voters needed to counter the expected rise of right-wing factions. In the Triangle region, the sector's voting for Zionist and Jewish parties dropped to about 5%. Rudnitzky added that it's likely that many Arab voters also turned their backs on Zionist parties due to Israel's three week military operation in the Gaza Strip. Nevertheless, Israel Beiteinu garnered 2.3% of the vote this year, compared to 1.1% in 2006. This level of support was perhaps due to the party's selection of Hamad Amar, a Druse, to a realistic spot, he said. In Amar's hometown, Shfaram, Israel Beiteinu earned even more votes than the United Arab List-Ta'al Party, and was the third most popular party in February's elections. Israel Beiteinu captured 13.5% of the Druse electorate this year, compared to 5.1% in 2006. Regarding the Likud, 2.1% of Arab-Israeli and Druse sector cast a ballot for the party in February, compared to 0.9% in 2006, according to the report. While the reasons are unclear, an internal conflict among Druse candidates vying for spots in Kadima may have led to a migration of votes to the Likud, Rudnitzky said. The conflict centered on Majallie Whbee and accusations that he unfairly secured a realistic spot on the Kadima list. The Likud also captured 11.7% of the Druse vote this year, compared to 2.2% in 2006. It is also possible that Druse voters, who strongly identified with Kadima founder Ariel Sharon, did not identify in the same way with the party's current leader, Tzipi Livni. As a result, those who had migrated from the Likud to Kadima to join Sharon may have decided to return to the Likud, he said. Kadima took just 15.9% of the Druse vote this year, compared to 21.9% in the previous elections . Likud MK Ayoub Kara, a Druse, argued that the increase in the percentage of Arab and Druse voters who chose his party was largely due to his popularity. "Last time, there was a [Druse] candidate that was not appropriate and not attractive," Kara said. He was referring to his being bumped to an unrealistic spot in 2006, and his voters "saw this as a betrayal of me and thus abandoned the Likud," he said. The community voted for the Likud this time around, he said, because of "my Israeli chutzpah and my Israeli leadership that you don't see in any Jew in this country." The percentages cited do not include votes in mixed Jewish-Arab cities nor from those in the military.