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October 25, 2022 5:23 pm

Israel PM Lapid Meets Arab Community Leaders to Boost Voter Turnout in Upcoming Elections

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Israeli Arabs protest against violence, organized crime and recent killings in their communities. This demonstration took place in the Arab town of Majd al-Krum in northern Israel, on Oct. 3, 2019. Photo: David Cohen/Flash90.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Tuesday met with representatives of Arab communities in the city of Nazareth in Israel’s north to motivate Israeli Arabs to go to the polls amid concern of a low Arab turnout in the upcoming elections on Nov. 1.

Lapid spoke with the city’s mayor Ali Salem and 20 Arab council heads about the importance of the Arab society to go and vote in next week’s elections.

“Arab society’s responsibility for its fate is ultimately expressed by being part of a democracy,” Lapid said according to a statement from his office. “If your citizens did not go out to vote, they should understand that what was given in the past year will be taken from them.”

“You are voting for your lives, you are voting for partnership,” he emphasized.

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The parliamentary coalition of the current government included an Arab party — Ra’am — for the first time in Israeli history.

Next week’s elections will mark the fifth time Israeli citizens will go to the polls within three and a half years. In recent weeks, Lapid has been seeking to appeal to the country’s Arab minority by promising to contain a years-long wave of crime and violence that has claimed the lives of more than 70 people in their communities.

“When a 13-year-old boy is murdered, it is a terrible failure of the entire Israeli society. We are all responsible for his fate,” Lapid told Arab municipal heads. “In the past year there has been a decline in murders thanks to the steps we have taken – I do not claim for a moment that this is enough, but we started something.”

The Israel Police has been criticized for not doing enough to crack down on the rising violence and organized crime in Arab society and to protect Israeli Arab citizens.

“A week before elections is also a time when you mark priorities,” Lapid said. “To come here now is to say – this is very high on our priorities as a government, the country’s, and mine personally.”

In recent years, there has been a steady decline in Arab voter turnout at Knesset elections, according to the Israel Democracy Institute. At the last elections held in March 2021, 44.6 percent was the voter turnout among Israel’s Arab minority, which makes up some 21 percent of the country’s population.

In the upcoming elections, 49 percent of Israeli Arabs are expected to cast their vote, according to a poll published on Tuesday by the Tel Aviv University. The survey based on a representative sample of 510 Israeli Arab citizens polled between Oct. 16 and Oct. 21, was conducted by the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation in the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University. The expected voter turnout on the eve of elections is up from the 42 percent recorded in a similar survey conducted in August before the start of the election campaign.

“In stark contrast to the picture that was observed a month ago, when there was a deep indifference towards the elections in the Arab street, the current poll reflects a growing interest among Arab voters to participate in the elections,” said Arik Rudnitzky of Tel Aviv University’s Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation. “Although the Arab public’s assessment of the functioning of the Bennett-Lapid government is not high, the public for the most part still wants to see an Arab party in the coalition.”

About half of the respondents in the survey believe that achievements for the Arab public will require an Arab party joining any coalition that is formed after the elections.

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