JERUSALEM (AP) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has spent his long career as the fifth column led by militant sympathizers to Israel’s Arab minority, is now openly supporting him as he falls short of the country’s fourth vote I want to reunite. Two years.
Some Arabs heeded his call, alleviating the frustration of Netanyahu’s political fabric. But the absence of provocation against the community in this campaign and the possible breakup of an Arab party alliance could disrupt voting for the benefit of Netanyahu. He can pick up just enough votes to swing a tight election.
Either way, Netanyahu’s domicile has shaken the Arab community. The joint list, a coalition of Arab parties that secured a record 15 seats in the 120-member cassette last March, is under dispute over whether it is the least objectionable center-left parties working with Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Whether or not you are in disarray.
Its demise will leave the community with even less representation as it faces a terrible crime wave, coronavirus-fueled unemployment and persistent inequality. But given the complexities of Israel’s coalition system, a broken Arab party gained outside influence if it was willing to work with Netanyahu or other traditionally hostile leaders.
The conflict was on a fiery display last week when Netanyahu traveled to Israel’s largest Arab-majority city of Nazareth, his third visit to an Arab district in less than two weeks. Outside the venue, dozens of people, including several Arab members of parliament, protested his visit and scrambled with police, even being welcomed and praised by the city’s mayor.
“Netanyahu came as a thief who tried to mix votes from the street of Arabia,” said Aida Touma-Suleiman, a prominent legislator on the joint list. “Your effort to end our community from within will not succeed.”
Arabs make up about 20% of the Israeli population. They have full citizenship, including the right to vote, and a large and growing presence in universities, the health care sector, and other professions. But they face widespread discrimination and blame Israeli law enforcement for the rising wave of violent crime in their communities.
He has close family ties with the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza and his cause is largely identified. This led many Jews to see him as sympathetic to Israel’s enemies, sentiments sent by Netanyahu and other right-wing politicians.
On the eve of the election in 2015, Netanyahu warned his supporters that Arab people were voting in a “draw”. During back-to-back elections in 2019, his campaign sent election observers in Arab districts and pushed for cameras in voting booths, a move that critics said To scare Arab voters and whip up false accusations of electoral fraud.
They went backfoot brilliantly.
The Joint List, a haphazard coalition of Islamists, Communists and other leftists, promoted voting and emerged as one of the largest blocks in Parliament. At times, it seemed that it might help deprive Netanyahu of a majority coalition or even emerge as an official opposition.
But last May, after three deadlock in less than a year, Netanyahu aligned with his main rival and the joint list was left in abeyance. In the upcoming election, the polls indicate a coalition of right-wing and centrist parties committed to ending Netanyahu’s nearly 12-year rule, which would remove him without Arabia.
No Arab party ever asked or invited him to join the ruling coalition.
In Nazareth, Netanyahu claimed that his comments were misinterpreted in 2015 – he was merely warning Arab voters not to support the joint list.
“All Israeli citizens, Jews and Arabs should vote equally,” he said. In other Arab cities, he has visited coronovirus vaccination centers, boasting about his success in obtaining millions of doses. And encouraging residents to vaccinate.
Netanyahu’s Arab outreach seems to have given the green light to moderate and left-leaning politicians to do so, with little concern that his right-wing rivals would use it against him. Leader of the opposition Yer Lapid, Netanyahu’s main center-left rival, said over the weekend that he was open to forming the government with external support from the joint list.
The combined list meanwhile is showing signs of breakdown. The head of an Islamist party, Mansoor Abbas, has expressed openness in recent months to work with Netanyahu to address issues such as housing and law enforcement. A colleague of Abbas declined requests for an interview.
A full-scale breakdown of the combined list could reduce voting and potentially leave one or more of its four parties with little support to cross the electoral threshold.
The co-director of the Abraham Initiative, which worked to promote equality between Jews and Arabs, Truth Abu Ras says Netanyahu may attract a small number of Arab voters, but more of them will simply boycott the election.
“They are waiting to see if there is going to be a joint list or not, and if you ask me, it’s not going to happen,” he said. “There are very deep differences at this time.”
Voting in december Arab forecast with a drop of about 55% compared to 65% seen last March.
Although Arab parties have historically performed worse on their own, some feel that parties may be more effective individually. In Israel’s political system – which requires prime ministers to form a majority-coalition – smaller parties often wield influence.
“When we talk about the Palestinian community in Israel, we don’t speak about a bloc, we have different ideologies,” said Nizameh Ali, a policy analyst at al-Shabka, an international Palestinian think tank. “Sometimes you have to break through to gain power.”
Netanyahu appears to be marginalized ahead of the tight race, which can determine not only whether he remains in the post, but whether he acquires immunity from prosecution in many allegations of corruption. With only a few seats, a practical politician like Abbas can determine Netanyahu’s fate.
“This is new in Arab politics,” said Eric Rudnitzki, a research fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute. “They are ready to have a direct conversation with Likud.”
He said that this does not mean that they would be part of a governing coalition, but that they could offer external support for safe benefits for the Arab public. “It can be a win-win situation,” he said.
Associated Press journalists Ariz Hazboon in Jerusalem and Amy Bentov in Nazareth, Israel contributed to this report.