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April 6, 2022 1:36 pm
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Israeli Arab Activists, Officials Pushing for Joint List to Save Government: Report

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

The heads of the Israeli-Arab parties Hadash, Ta’al, and UAL seek a joint Arab List, July 27, 2019. Photo: Hadash.

As Israel lurches into another political crisis with the defection of MK Idit Silman on Wednesday, robbing the ruling coalition of its Knesset majority, observers have questioned what role the predominantly Arab Joint List party will play.

It is highly unlikely that the Joint List, which contains non-Zionist and anti-Zionist factions, will join any governing coalition as its breakaway faction Ra’am did last year. However, it could provide crucial backing to the government from outside the coalition by giving it a majority in any Knesset vote.

Joint List leaders have refrained from making any commitments thus far, but face strong pressure from activists, members, and officials to save the current coalition or provide a “safety net” so it can remain viable, Israeli news site N12 reported.

Taleb el-Sana, a former Knesset member with the Islamist Ra’am party, told the outlet that “the real danger” is that the coalition of Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid “has laid the groundwork for a future government that will be very racist, much more than the current one. The Joint List must formulate a strategy together with Ra’am. They know that the prime minister of the caretaker government will be Yair Lapid and not Bennett. The Joint List will give a safety net for the Lapid government.”

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Referring to former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies, far-right MKs Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, el-Sana added that, if the Joint List doesn’t preserve the coalition, “we will receive in the near future a government of Bibi, Smotrich, and Ben-Gvir.”

Israeli-Arab activists and leaders have expressed support for backing the current coalition, according to N12, with one unnamed head of a local council in northern Israel saying, “This is the time for the Arab community to prove itself and put pressure to stay in this government.”

“If not this government,” he continued, “we will receive the chief inciteful racist Benjamin Netanyahu together with the two racists Smotrich and Ben-Gvir. It’s preferable for there to be a government that has Yesh Atid and Ra’am — and from outside, a safety net from the Joint List — over any other government.”

“The only choice at the moment is to join with Ra’am and create a plan to save the government,” the official said.

One source among Joint List activists told N12, “We’re tired of posts on social media and getting likes. This is the time to listen to the street, and the street is saying, ‘We don’t want elections, we want to be in the government, to make decisions, and to continue the plan of fighting crime in the Arab community, economic development, and preventing a government of Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir.'”

At the moment, however, many Joint List leaders are expressing uncertainty and ambivalence about the party’s next move.

MK Sami Abu Shehadeh of the party’s Balad faction said a meeting had been scheduled for Wednesday “and we will decide on our next steps. Elections are a positive thing for the Joint List.”

This was echoed by MK Aida Touma-Suleiman, who deflected the question, saying, “We are in consultations, we haven’t made any decisions yet. I’m going to Sinai tomorrow. For three years I haven’t taken a vacation and I have to be with my daughters and grandchildren. It looks like someone knew I wouldn’t be here.”

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