Ahead of Israel's third elections, both sides exclude Arabs

Despite the promise of a “positive campaign” by Likud officials, once again, the main campaign slogan of the Likud is “Without the Arab Joint List, Gantz can’t form a government.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls for people in Jerusalem to go and vote. (photo credit: LIKUD)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls for people in Jerusalem to go and vote.
(photo credit: LIKUD)
The third round of elections has turned into a third round of slogans aimed at excluding parts of Israel.
Despite the promise of a “positive campaign” by Likud officials, once again, the main campaign slogan of the Likud is “Without the Arab Joint List, Gantz can’t form a government.”
Gigantic posters showing Gantz meeting with Joint List leader Ayman Odeh and MK Ahmad Tibi can be seen across the country.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeats this phrase at every campaign stop. On the radio, on television and in the daily rallies he holds: “Benny Gantz can’t form a government without the Joint List.”
In some instances, Netanyahu repeats the notion that this kind of scenario would lead to a “dangerous government.”
In one interview, the prime minister appeared to get so worked up while repeating this slogan that he confused Gantz with former prime minister Ehud Olmert, and Tibi with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “Olmert can’t form a government without the support of Abu Mazen, Ayman Odeh and the Joint List,” he said.
To some of the rallies, Netanyahu comes with a white board and a marker pen. He uses them to show the crowd his calculations – Blue and White, Labor-Gesher-Meretz and Yisrael Beytenu will not have 61 seats after the election, so in order to form a coalition, Gantz will have to ask the Joint List for its support.
On Monday, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who supposedly strikes a more moderate tone in the Likud, joined the choir. Speaking at a gathering of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, he stressed that Balad, the more extreme component of the Joint List, supports terrorism, adding that it is unthinkable that Blue and White would rely on its support.
“Obviously, any minority is legitimate, and there is nothing wrong with having Arabs in the Knesset and in the government,” Edelstein said. “But having anti-Zionist forces who openly support terrorism, who praise terrorists who killed 10, 20 or 30 bystanders – uninvolved civilians – doesn’t turn even an Arab into a legitimate partner for a coalition.”
The High Court of Justice has addressed this issue. In the previous two rounds of elections – and now again for the upcoming one – it was asked to decide whether Balad as a party, or some of its members individually, can run for Knesset seats. The court has weighed MKs’ expressions and decided that even though they are very close to the redline, they have not crossed it.
Last week, a panel of nine justices voted 5-4 in favor of allowing MK Heba Yazbak, a member of Balad, to run in the March election.
We believe this decision was wrong. What Yazbak said was in support of terrorism, and the decision to allow her to run for office was outrageous. It would have been best if Balad and Yazbak were not part of the Joint List, but they are. And it is only one out of four parties composing the list.
On the other hand, the Joint List is the sole representative of the 20% of citizens who are Arabs. And in a democracy, their votes are no different than a vote by a Jewish Israeli.
In addition, the Arab minority is rapidly changing. Polls show more Arabs want to take an active part in society. Writing off the Joint List essentially writes off the entire Arab public, and campaigning against the legitimacy of the Joint List is essentially a campaign against a Jewish-Arab joint future in Israel.
Parties should actually want to add Arab parties into their coalitions. This is the best way to create a real partnership and get Arab-Israelis to feel that they are part and parcel of the State of Israel. Joined by real reforms in the Arab sector, this could dramatically change the country.
It is time to stop the campaign against 20% of the citizens of this country. Political disagreements are part of any government, but division over ethnicity should not be allowed. It is time for this to come to an end.


Tags Joint List