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64% of Arab-Israelis support joining ruling coalition

The Israeli Knesset [File photo]
The Israeli Knesset [File photo]

Almost two-thirds of Palestinian citizens of Israel support joining the ruling coalition after the upcoming general election, even if that means joining a right-wing government.

According to a poll published yesterday, 64 per cent of the Palestinian citizens of Israel surveyed were in favour of Arab-Israeli political parties joining the ruling coalition. When the option in question was joining a centre-left government, this support rose to 68 per cent, Haaretz reported.

In addition, 61 per cent of Palestinian citizens of Israel said they would support a joint Jewish-Arab party if it ran in the upcoming election on 9 April, countering the long-held assumption that Palestinian citizens of Israel would only vote for Arab-Israeli parties.

Thus far no Arab-Israeli party has formed part of a ruling coalition, despite the fact that there are four parties representing Palestinian citizens of Israel: Hadash, the United Arab List (Ra’am), the National Democratic Union (Balad) and Ta’al. These parties had previously run together as the Joint List, an alliance formed to ensure that they passed the four seat minimum threshold usually needed to sit in the Knesset. The Joint List performed well in the 2015 elections, winning 13 seats to become the third largest party in the parliament.

Earlier this month head of the Ta’al party Ahmed Tibi broke away from the Joint List, citing a disagreement over the order in which its component parties should be placed on the ballot. Tibi was criticised for breaking up the alliance, a move which could potentially harm its prospects in the upcoming election. A poll conducted shortly after Tibi’s breakaway found that Ta’al is expected to receive 43 per cent of Palestinian citizens of Israel’s vote – which would translate into six seats – compared to only 38 per cent for the remainder of the Joint List.

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However, last week Tibi expressed his ambition to form a minority government to oust incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In an interview, Tibi said that he plans to work together with other Israeli political parties to unseat Netanyahu and remove the “catastrophic” Likud party from government. Though Tibi did not reveal names, suspicions are that he has been in talks with head of the Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid – which is currently polling at 13 seats – about the possibility of cooperation. If Tibi’s Ta’al party and Lapid’s Yesh Atid joined forces with other centrist parties such as Benny Gantz’ Israel Resilience (Hosen L’Yisrael) party, their collective number of seats could allow them to challenge Likud’s dominance in the Knesset.

Whether Tibi’s Ta’al party or the remainder of the Joint List will consider joining the ruling coalition, despite the wish of Arab-Israeli voters, is as yet unclear. Coalition parties are also unlikely to support the idea, with many right-wing Israeli parties expressing hostility towards their Arab-Israeli colleagues. Head of the Yisrael Beitenu party, Avigdor Lieberman, has frequently spoken out against Joint List members of the Knesset (MKs), just this weekend accusing the alliance of being funded by the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Shortly after his resignation from the defence portfolio in November, Lieberman swapped seats with a member of his own party to avoid sitting next to Joint List leader Ayman Odeh. Odeh slammed Lieberman’s move as petty, tweeting: “The other day, he was defense minister and today he’s playing musical chairs because he can’t sit next to an Arab.” Lieberman has also taken aim at other Joint List MKs, including Balad’s Haneen Zoabi who earlier this month announced she would not run in April’s election due to the repeated “character assassinations” and “ongoing incitement” levelled against her.

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