For Arab Israelis, it all boils down to when Ra’am comes over the voters’ threshold

The high turnout and commitment among Arab Israelis took the Joint List to 15 Knesset seats in March 2020. But the Arab parties saw little legislative achievement, despite the number They had a lot of slate sets.

On Tuesday, hit by a year of aggression among their broken coalition, Israel’s fourth elections get Arab Israelis divided and disbanded, with less likely to vote than in 2020.

According to a recent poll, only about 59 percent of Arab Israelis expect to vote in the upcoming election, a six-point drop from 2020. Earlier studies had predicted an even harder fall , although the enthusiasm seemed to be growing slightly in the last few weeks.

Get The Daily of Israel’s Daily Edition by Email and don’t miss our top stories for free

“There is a kind of political downturn,” said former Israeli Arab voter Yousef Makladeh, who blames the relentless conflict between the current Coalition List parties and Ra’am breakaway.

Balad President Sami Abou Shehadeh will address voters in Arraba on 13 March 2021. (Joint List)

Ra’am withdrew from the joint list in early February amid leader Mansour Abbas’ s attempt at a different style of Israeli Arab politics. Abbas had sparked widespread controversy among Arab Israelis when he said he would serve in a Netanyahu-led government, crossing what the other three Arab parties see as a red line.

Makladeh confirmed to the Israeli Times that the situation remains stable. A number of factors, such as the high number of Arab Israelis in quarantine, could further turnout.

“If the turnout is closer to 55% – predicted earlier – we would see the Joint List get seven seats and Ra’am not pass at all,” Makladeh said.

Opposition Arab groups have been at each other’s throats ever since the official split in February. Both sides could not even sign an agreement of additional votes, with the effort falling into allegations.

“When everything is so brutally wordy, and everyone is attacking and calling each other and disrespecting each other, the Zionist parties are the first to will benefit, even as the voter turnout goes down, “Makladeh said.

But the turnout of Israel’s Arab voters on Tuesday is likely to shape not only the future of Israeli Arab politics. It has the potential to change the political map of Israel.

Perhaps more importantly, if Ra’am passes the 3.25% voting threshold required to enter the Knesset, Israeli politics will see a powerful new king player come into view. For the first time in Israel’s history, an Arab party may be caught up in determining who will be Israel’s next Prime Minister.

Ra’am party chairman and MK Mansour Abbas joint list at the Knesset in Jerusalem on 11 November 2020. (Hadas Parush / Flash90)

A slightly higher Arab turnover of around 59% would probably be enough to see Ra’am go over the threshold and take at least four sets, Makladeh said.

It would be politically difficult for Netanyahu to welcome Abbas Islamists into the coalition. The Prime Minister has in fact already abandoned offering Abbas a place in his government, instead urging Ra’am voters to vote directly for the Likud.

But in politics, yesterday’s sworn enemies are tomorrow’s essential partners. And while many ruled out Ra’am’s chances back in February, the polls now offer more than a chance to fight Abbas’s move in Tuesday’s vote.

If Abbas crosses the threshold, his party could throw a huge cue in a battlefield without stopping Israeli politics – four seats that would be hard to turn down.

“If Netanyahu needs these four seats to support his government, he will tell his partners as [Itamar] Ben Gvir will close, and Ra’am will be ready to join, ”said researcher Arik Rudnitsky, who studies Israeli Arab politics at the Israeli Institute for Democracy.

When the Joint List split in February, viewers largely believed that Ra’am would fall below the election stage – spending tens of thousands of Arab votes. But in a poll after the vote in the past few days, Islamists are expected to win Knesset seats.

A polling board with the Israeli electoral alliance is largely on the combined list showing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a caption reading in Arabic “The country’s law father, says ‘a new approach’, who is he making a fool of? ”protesters can be seen above at a demonstration by Arab Israelis in the northern Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm on March 5, 2021, against organized crime and demanding Israeli police stopped a wave of inter-communist violence. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

Some describe Ra’am’s enduring support for his origin as the southern branch of the Israeli Islamic movement. The movement runs a network of charities and operates educational and religious resources, giving them deep roots – especially in southern Israel.

“Ra’am’s strength far outweighs our understanding. Their network is very strong, especially in the Negev, and it gives them the infrastructure to cultivate support, ”an official on the Joint List grudgedly told The Times of Israel on Thursday.

Moreover, a surprising number of Arab Israelis may support Ra’am’s theory of change – even though they may delay their ballot for conservative Islamists on election day.

In a recent survey by Rudnitsky, 46% of Arab Israelis said they thought it was desirable for the Arab parties to be in any governing coalition – not just a center-left . While some of the Joint List still want to participate in any government, Ra’am has embraced the potential.

Abu yair

The fourth election in two years could feel like déjà vu to many Israelis, with some already insisting that the fifth round could be close.

However, in this round some completely new elements are seen, most notably Netanyahu’s strong campaign to win Arab votes.

Arab Israelis looked amazing as Netanyahu – calling himself by the Arabic nickname “Abu Yair (Father Yair)” – held press conferences with high-profile Arab bars, drinking coffee with Bedouin local leaders, and pledged to solve the problems of the Arab community.

“Likud Vote, Abu Yair Vote,” Netanyahu said in a last minute video, released Saturday night, promises direct flights from Israel to Mecca to deliver ferries to Muslim Arabs on Islam’s holy Hajj pilgrimage.

Bedouin women walk past campaign billboards for Israel’s southern Likud party with a photo of their leader Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the town of Bedhat Rahat near the Israeli city of Beersheba on March 10, 2021. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

It is a strange turn for Netanyahu, who has not delayed the destruction of Arabs in previous election campaigns, and whose government blames many Arab Israelis for what they see as discrimination legislation: the state law of the nation 2018, which brought down official Arabic status, and the 2017 law aimed at illegal Arab construction.

Nevertheless, according to Rudnitsky’s study, about 1.6 seats of Arab votes will go to the Likud on March 23rd.

“The Likud is expected to win around 10,000 votes in the Negev among Bedouins. They also take Druze votes, around 25-30% of Druze votes, ”said Makladeh.

Rudnitsky identified organized crime as a feature that could play a part in promoting direct support for Likud among Arab Israelis. Ending the rising violence and organized crime in their communities has consistently been cited as the top priority for Arab Israelis in opinion polls.

Netanyahu has vowed to intervene in the case, saying it intends to implement a multi-billion-shekel plan to counter the case. For some, other ideological concerns were expected to provide basic personal security.

“When it comes to organized crime, and the ability to produce results – this plays to Bibi’s strengths,” Rudnitsky said, referring to Netanyahu by the other nickname.

When the polls close tomorrow, regardless of whether Ra’am passes or whether the Component List gets seven or nine sets, it is likely that Netanyahu will be able to make a big impact on the polls. his political movement among Arab Israelis.

A large block of Netanyahu’s rivals have spent the elections fighting against each other, rather than him. If Ra’am enters the Knesset, Netanyahu will have a capable companion who could give him another term in power – breaking a stop that has lasted over four elections.

But if Ra’am fails to pass the threshold, the prime minister will have defeated an Arab in half in one election. The allied division of the Knesset among Jewish parties – including among Netanyahu’s southern coalition partners – goes accordingly.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit a coronavirus vaccination facility in the northern Arab city of Nazareth on January 13, 2021. (Gil Eliyahu / POOL / AFP)

And, after last year’s disappointing success, it looks like the Joint List will have to stand in front of its community and try to fall steeply from 15 seats to as little as seven or eight.

In a last-minute plea, Coalition Chairman Ayman Odeh urged Arab Israelis to go to the polls to take over Netanyahu-led government.

“Every chair we get brings two sets from the Netanyahu federation, [Itamar] Ben gvir and [Religious Zionism party head Bezalel] Smotrich, the most dangerous southern coalition for us and our children, ”said Odeh.