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Israel-Arab MK Tibi splinters Joint List

January 9, 2019 at 2:03 pm

Dr Ahmad Tibi, former member of Knesset seen at Middle East Monitor’s ‘Jerusalem: Legalising the Occupation’ conference in London, UK on 3 March, 2018 [Jehan Alfarra/Middle East Monitor]

The Joint List has split ahead of Israel’s general election, after Arab-Israeli politician Ahmad Tibi broke away from the four-party coalition.

Tibi submitted a request to the Knesset House Committee yesterday asking that he be allowed to break away from the Joint List, a coalition of four Arab-dominated political parties: Hadash, the United Arab List, Ta’al and the National Democratic Union (Balad). As the chair of Ta’al, Tibi’s decision means that his party will also be withdrawn from the Joint List and run independently in Israel’s general election on 9 April.

The exact reasons for Tibi’s decision remain unclear. According to Haaretz, the move could be the result of disagreements with other Joint List factions, explaining that for months “he has urged open primaries for Joint List candidates, or a distribution of parties’ seats within the alliance based on public surveys [but] the other three Joint List parties did not cooperate with his efforts”. While Haaretz points out that Tibi undertook this push “partly in the hopes of increasing Ta’al’s strength,” it is possible that the intransigence of the other three parties on this issue contributed to his decision to break away yesterday.

Though Tibi now intends for Ta’al to run alone, it is unclear whether the party will win enough votes to pass the four-seat minimum threshold usually required to sit in the 120-seat Knesset.

Though MEMO contacted Tibi’s office for comment, at the time of publication no response had been received.

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It also seems that Tibi did not inform other Joint List factions of his decision prior to submitting his request to the Knesset committee. According to the Jerusalem Post, leader of the Joint List Ayman Odeh only heard about Tibi’s decision from the press. Responding to the news on Twitter, Odeh wrote that: “[Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is the one who would like to see the Joint List break apart most, and the extreme Right would love to divide and rule the Arabs. I am proud to be a part of a political party that puts their ideologies before personal interests.”

True to Odeh’s prediction, Israel’s right-wing has celebrated Tibi’s decision, with the chairman of the Yisrael Beitenu party, Robert Ilatov, saying in a statement: “I congratulate MK Ahmad Tibi on his decision to withdraw his party from the Joint List and wish him best of luck. I hope Tibi and his party will run for the [Palestinian] parliament in Ramallah [in the occupied West Bank] rather than the Israeli Knesset. That is where they belong.”

Tibi’s move is the second blow this week for the Joint List. This weekend Haneen Zoabi – a prominent Arab-Israeli MK who represented the Balad party – announced that she would not run for re-election in April. Zoabi claimed she had been subjected to a coordinated campaign to push her out of politics, saying: “[I faced] character assassination, ongoing incitement, unceasing attempts to make me disappear, to silence me, to distort my opinions and even my image [in order to] to distance me from the political arena.” As a result, she explained: “The time has come to change [my] place, but not the way, to strengthen the model of Balad, for the sake of a stronger Palestinian generation, a more stubborn struggle.”

Also last week, Hadash’s Dov Khenin announced that he would not run for re-election, saying that he was leaving to invest his time in grassroots movements as opposed to Knesset politics.

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