Israel’s four Arab-dominated parties will run as a re-united Joint List in the country’s upcoming election in September, ending weeks of speculation over whether they would agree to cooperate.
The four parties – Hadash, Ta’al, Ra’am and Balad – ran together as part of an alliance known as the Joint List in the 2015 election in order to ensure they passed the 3.25 per cent minimum threshold needed to sit in the Knesset. They performed well, winning 15 seats to become the Knesset’s third-largest party.
However, following internal disagreements between party heads, the Joint List broke down in February ahead of Israel’s general election on 9 April. The two lists which were subsequently formed – Hadash-Ta’al and Ra’am-Balad – struggled to inspire Palestinian citizens of Israel in April, winning only ten seats in total, six for Hadash-Ta’al and four for Ra’am-Balad.
Following this disappointing performance and a historically-low voter turnout on election day, the parties faced pressure to re-build the defunct Joint List. This pressure was compounded by the fact that, following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s failure to build a ruling coalition, Israel will now head to the polls for the second time this year on 17 September.
Against this backdrop, the parties announced following a meeting yesterday evening that they would run together as the Joint List in September’s election. A statement by the parties said that “most of the Arab citizens [of Israel] want a joint list. As such, we have put in the effort to come together as one party instead of splitting into two [lists, as in April]”.
The announcement continued by stressing that the Joint List was as important now as ever, particularly in the wake of the Nation-State Law which last year declared Israel the “national home of the Jewish people” and effectively rendered Israel’s some 1.8 million Palestinians second-class citizens.
The statement cited the “racist, colonial Nation-State Law and its consequences; discriminatory policies; the siege [on the Gaza Strip]; land confiscation; the struggle to find housing in the Arab community; the [Israeli] establishment’s effort to strip our citizenship of all meaning; and our will to battle increased crime and violence” as just some of the challenges facing the reunited list.
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The parties also highlighted external challenges facing Palestinian citizens of Israel, as well as their compatriots in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). Just a few of those noted were the US’ 2017 decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving the US embassy to the Holy City in May 2018, the recognition of the occupied Syrian Golan Heights as Israeli territory earlier this year, and the upcoming “Peace to Prosperity” conference, which is slated to be held in Bahrain capital Manama next week.
It is not yet clear who will head the new Joint List, though veteran Knesset Member (MK) Ayman Odeh – who formerly headed the list and has since headed the Hadash-Ta’al alliance – is widely expected to take up the position. It also remains to be seen whether the current ten MKs from Hadash-Ta’al and Ra’am-Balad will be given the top slots on the Joint List’s electoral slate, or whether the list will decide to hold open primaries in the coming months.