Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Israeli Elections 2: A Labor--Arab Party Coalition?

Palestinian citizens, about 20 percent of the population, have been and are conflicted about voting in Israeli elections. Some feel that voting only legitimizes a system that assigns them second class citizen status, so it's better to boycott. Nevertheless, Pollster Dahlia Scheindlin says
Nearly 70 percent of Arab citizens of Israel intend to vote if the three existing Arab parties run on a joint list, compared to 56 percent who voted in the 2013 elections, a new +972 poll found. But the call to boycott the elections holds powerful sway. A majority of 54 percent says that if there are such calls to boycott the elections, they will decide not to vote, leaving only 46 percent at present who are committed to voting despite such calls.
Today, Abu Rass, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and a PhD student in political science at the University of Houston, has an article at +972 Magazine with an optimistic take on a possible Labor-Arab parties alliance. 

There is a rising number of Arab professionals in all fields in Israel, says Rass. Nevertheless, they have been kept out of political power, and they are virtually locked out from the government bureaucracy. There may be an opportunity for Arab parties to team up with Labor, says Rass. 

Palestinians are motivated: 
With the rise of far-right extremism [in Israel] that has included numerous calls to expel Arabs; erase their language and culture; and delegitimize their political and social activism as proposed in the “Jewish Nation-State Law,” the time has come for the Arabs to respond. The best way to do so is to change the system.
If Palestinians turn out in large numbers to vote, they may have enough power to make a difference.
According to recent polls, a unified Arab slate consisting of the four major parties: Hadash (a joint Jewish-Arab party, where nearly 95% of its voters are Palestinians), Balad, Ta’al and Ra’am can achieve 15 seats, at least 4 more than the 11 they won in the previous election.
Will Labor chairman, Isaac Herzog, embrace them? Will they work together? They should, and it would be good, says Rass: 
[What] Palestinian politicians ... can add is to normalize the status of the Palestinian minority. A stronger Palestinian minority will only work to enhance the chances of a future solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 
If Labor and the Israeli left want to return to the Prime Minister’s Office after 16 years of consistent failures, they must take Israel’s largest minority into consideration. On March 18th Israel may have a new prime minister. If the Palestinian community and their leaders take the strategic steps necessary, a Jewish partner will be needed; the only question is: will Herzog be up to the task?
Labor teaming up with Arab parties would be a positive change in a country that needs change.  

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