Israeli-Arab MK Ahmad Tibi has expressed his ambition to form a minority government to oust incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Speaking for the first time since he broke away from the Joint List earlier this month, Tibi said that he plans to work together with other Israeli political parties to unseat Netanyahu and remove the Likud party from government.
In an interview published by +972 Magazine, Tibi explained: “My top priority is to replace Benjamin Netanyahu and the right-wing government because it is a catastrophic government […] I will lead the attempt, through my party [Ta’al], to establish a political bloc to thwart a right-wing government in the upcoming elections.”
Tibi cited the 1992 minority government of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, which was supported by two Arab-Israeli parties Hadash and the Arab Democratic Party, as his inspiration. He pointed out that though “Rabin was not exactly a vegetarian — he too was the former IDF Chief of Staff —the Arab parties entered a political bloc with him,” suggesting modern-day Arab-Israeli parties should follow this model. “If there is an Arab party that says it is not waiting for another opportunity like in the 90s then it either does not understand politics,” he adds, saying: “I hope we reach a situation in which our numbers and political power match what we had in the 90s.”
To form the minority government, Tibi would have to enter into an agreement with some of Israel’s centrist parties. Among the options open to him are the Yesh Atid party – led by Yair Lapid and currently polling at 13 seats – or Benny Gantz’ Israel Resilience Party (Hosen L’Yisrael) which is also expected to win around 13 seats. Tibi stressed that he would not discuss names, but added that “I don’t know Gantz or his political positions. I know Yair Lapid,” suggesting Lapid would be Tibi’s first choice of partner.
Tibi’s comments will be seen as an indication of confidence that his Ta’al party will perform well in the upcoming Israeli general election, which is due to take place on 9 April. April will be the first time Ta’al has run alone in an election, having previously stood as part of the Joint List alongside the other Arab-Israeli parties Hadash, the United Arab List (Ra’am) and the National Democratic Union (Balad). A poll conducted earlier in January found that Tibi is expected to receive 43 per cent of the Palestinian citizens of Israel’s vote, compared to only 38 per cent for the remainder of the Joint List. +972 points out that this could win Ta’al six seats, putting the party clear of the four seat minimum threshold usually needed to secure a place in the 120-seat Knesset.
Palestinian citizens of Israel, which number 1.8 million and constitute just over 20 per cent of the Israeli population, have historically supported the Joint List but in recent years become increasingly apathetic to the political process. Mainstream Israeli parties have also tried to counter the Palestinian community’s influence, with Netanyahu telling Jewish-Israeli voters in the 2015 election that they should go out to vote because the Palestinians would be voting “in droves”. Prompting fear among Jewish-Israelis, Netanyahu’s controversial statement was thought to have won him another term in office.