Unified Arab list likely to shake Israeli vote up

Aiming for 4th place in Knesset, 'Democratic Camp'

30 January, 19:29

    Knesset meets in Jerusalem Knesset meets in Jerusalem

    (by Aldo Baquis) (ANSAmed) - TEL AVIV, JANUARY 30 - Israel's Arab parties are joining forces for the first time ahead of the March 17 parliamentary elections in a unified Arab list. According to three polls, it may become the fourth largest party in the Knesset, with 12 seats out of a 120 total in the Israeli assembly. Only Likud, the center-left coalition called 'Zionist Camp' and Jewish Home nationalists are expected to have more seats. ''If Likud leads the 'Nationalists' Camp' and Yitzhak Herzog and Tzipi Livni the 'Zionist Camp', we will be the 'Democratic Camp' in Parliament,'' the leader of the list, Ayman Odeh, told the communist paper Zo Ha-Derekh. ''The new formation marks a turning point in Israeli politics.'' Traditionally, Arab votes are generally spread between three main parties: the Marxist-inspired Hadash, the secular, nationalist Palestinian Balad and one closer to the Islamic movement but also open to civil society, Ra'am-Taal. In the outgoing legislature, MPs from the nationalist ring-wing pushed an amendment through that raised the threshold for entrance into Parliament to a minimum four seats, and thus the concern is that the separate Arab parties might not manage to get past the minimum. The unification between such heterogeneous parties has proven painful and troubled. In the communist party (in which there are still many Jews, as well) the merger into an 'Arab-labeled' electoral list has met with opposition, both in terms of the form and of contents.

    ''The struggle against racism and discrimination must not be conducted only by Israeli Arabs,'' said Jewish community MP Dov Henin. Despite his doubts, Henin will be one of the candidates on the unified Arab list as well.

    ''We will try to create a vast, Arab-Israeli democratic alliance,'' he said. On the announcement of the creation of the unified Arab list, the Israeli daily Haaretz published a commentary for the first time in Arabic calling on Arab voters to support it in a unified manner. It noted that Arabs should take as an example the Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Orthodox Jews, who vote in mass for their parties and in so doing achieve success.

    However, it has been noted that the commentary failed to address an important issue: an explicit appeal to Herzog and Livni to include the list if it manages to form a government after the elections. So far it seems - as was the case with previous Labor governments - the Zionist Camp gives the Arab list only the role of external support against the right. However, should the new part be successful, it would still have significant repercussions for Israeli Arabs: even if not in the ministries, at least in the assigning of parliamentary commissions.

    (ANSAmed).

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