TEL AVIV: Arab parties have increased their representation in Israel’s newly elected parliament, juxtaposed against a notable increase in support for Jewish right-wing parties.
According to the votes counted so far, the new Knesset (Israel’s parliament) will have one extra Arab member in the 18th assembly, compared to the previous parliament, and possibly an additional seat on top of that, after all the votes are counted.
The breakdown is three members for the Balad party, four members for Ra’am-Ta’al and four members for Hadash, a mixed Jewish-Arab party that had three members in the previous Knesset.
Pre-elections polls predicted the Arab parties would get far fewer seats than they eventually gained.
Talib A-‘Sana’, number three on the Ra’am-Ta’al list, said the increased number of votes for Arab parties was a result of a polarization in Israeli society.
“The Gaza war influenced the political map, he told The Media Line. “In the Jewish sector it’s natural that a war will make people lean to the right.
On the other hand, the atrocities in Gaza deflected from the clout of the Zionist parties among the Arab population and empowered the Arab parties.
Last month, Israel’s Supreme Court overturned a decision to disqualify two Israeli Arab parties from running for Knesset. The Central Election Committee had previously decided to ban the parties from running in the election, on the grounds that they did not recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish democratic state and supported an armed struggle against Israel.
The Israeli Arab loyalty issue came to the fore in the Feb. 10 elections, with the hawkish Yisrael Beiteinu party, headed by Avigdor Lieberman, making it a key component of its platform.
One of the party’s slogans in the elections, in reference to Israel’s Arabs, was “No Loyalty – No Citizenship.
Lieberman won 15 seats in the new Knesset, emerging as the third-largest political party after Kadima and Likud.
“The ascension of Lieberman, who made hatred and incitement against Arabs part of his agenda, pushed Arabs to go out and vote, sometimes for the first time in their lives, A-Sana said.
“Despite the stormy weather and calls from Arab leaders to boycott the elections, Arabs gained more power. In my opinion, they didn’t even realize their full potential. If they’d been better organized, and the weather had been better, Arab parties could have got 12 or even 13 seats, he said.
It is worth noting that there will be fewer Arabs represented in the Zionist parties than previously.
Nadia Hilu and Ghalib Majadlah, two Arab MKs who were represented in the 17th Knesset on behalf of the Labor Party, did not make it into the new line-up.
Arabs in Israel number some 1.2 million, constituting around 20 percent of the total population. Around 80 percent of them are Muslims, and the rest are Christian.
Excluding Arabs in eastern Jerusalem, who have residency status, Israeli Arabs have full Israeli citizenship and are represented in the parliament and in the government.
However, this minority frequently claims to be discriminated against by the Israeli government in budget allocations, employment, and in the attitude of the security system towards them. Many say they are equal citizens only on paper, not in practice.
Because of their strong historic and family ties with the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, they are often depicted in the mainstream media as a fifth column and a security threat.
There have been cases where Israeli Arabs have expressed support for anti-Israel groups, either in words or in action. -The Media Line