AMMAN: The Joint Arab List that was made up of four parties in Israel has splintered, with the Islamic Movement, headed by Mansour Abbas, leaving the alliance.
“We’ve failed, unfortunately. The Joint List will not continue in its current party lineup,” said Balad Knesset member Mtanes Shehadeh, adding: “At this point, we cannot continue as the Joint List because of our fundamental political differences.”
The now three-party list is composed of Hadash, the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality, headed by Ayman Odeh, Balad (Tajamu) the Pan-Arabism, left wing party headed by Sami Abu Shehadeh, and Ta’al, the Arab Movement for Change, headed by Ahmad Tibi.
The demise of the Joint List has been described as a win-win for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “If Mansour Abbas fails to pass the 3.25 percent (vote) threshold, he would have burnt tens of thousands of Arab votes and if he wins, he will likely support Netanyahu to form a government,” Nazareth-based lawyer and political analyst Botrus Mansour told Arab News
Abbas’s split had become clear in the past few months, having tested the waters with Netanyahu, who made a surprise visit to the Arab towns of Um Al-Fahmi, Tire and Nazareth, and pledged to help fight crime within Arab society. Inter-Arab violence has claimed tens of lives in the past few weeks alone. Abbas’s religious-based party also objected to the vote by some members of the Joint List to support LGBTQ legislation, an issue morally rejected by the Islamic faction.
Wadie Abunassar, director of the Haifa-based International Centre for Consultations, told Arab News that passing the high electoral threshold will be the test for a number of parties in the center and left.
“The only thing that is sure is that Netanyahu’s Likud and his supporters are united, while the center and center-left factions are splintered with a number of lists unlikely to pass the threshold, which requires about 120,000 votes for any list to qualify for entry to the Knesset,” he said.
He added that the pro-Netanyahu camp is homogeneous, while “anti-Netanyahu” people are split and heterogeneous.
Public opinion polls show that the various coalition parties opposed to Netanyahu becoming prime minister will likely be tied or have one or more seats than Netanyahu and his partners, but it is unclear if the anti-Netanyahu groups can stay united and agree on who will be their choice for prime minister.
Avigdor Liberman of the Russian Jewish party Yisrael Beituna, has suggested that the head of whichever list gets the most votes should be nominated by the others to become prime minister, but this suggestion has not been accepted.
Ibrahim Daebes, lead columnist for Al-Quds Daily, tweeted that rather than learning from the Arabs in Israel about unity and joint lists, instead, they were providing a lesson in splits and disunity.
To complicate things even further, the corruption trial of Netanyahu is due to start on Feb. 8, but legal observers say it will go on for some time, although the image of Netanyahu standing in court will not be helpful for his campaign.