Dr Yousef Jabareen, a Hadash member of Israel’s Knesset and candidate for the Joint List, discussed his views and expectations about the election to be held on Tuesday, September 17, with the Russian news website Sputnik.
Sputnik: What do you expect the Arab voter turnout will be? Is the atmosphere different from that which preceded the April election?
Dr Yousef Jabareen: Now, that we are united again in one list, I do feel that the atmosphere is different; it is more positive, supportive. We hope this will positively influence the turnout in our community on Election Day. In April this year, the turnout was extremely low, a bit below 50%. We hope this time we will be able to get over 65 or even 70%, which would mean we would be able to increase our political representation in the Knesset and be the third-largest faction. This increase in our seats would give us more power; we hope to be able to do that and to basically devote our time in the coming few weeks to focus extensively on Arab towns and villages, and convince more and more people in our community to get out and vote on election day. We can do it.
Sputnik: Israeli right-wingers are uniting in an influential bloc, while the center and the left are also forming tactical alliances. Given this, how much representation, do you think, the Joint List will get in the Knesset?
Dr Yousef Jabareen: We hope that with the reunification of the Joint List we will be able to gain back the three seats that we lost during the April election and even add an additional one or two seats.
When it comes to the issue of being in the coalition, we have a clear and firm platform advocating an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel in the 1967 borders including East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state, and we advocate for ethnic and civil equality for the Arab community within Israel. This is our platform, but unfortunately, I do not see that the Blue and White party [Kahol Lavan] is accepting this platform.
Therefore, it seems that we will be in the opposition and we will be a strong opposition against any government that will continue the occupation of our Palestinian people, and against any government, that maintains the discriminatory policies towards Arab citizens. If there is any readiness from Blue and White or left parties to negotiate and accept our platform, the option might be for supporting this left government from the outside. However, this is on the condition that there will be acceptance of our political platform.
As I have said, unfortunately, so far, Blue and White is not presenting a real alternative to Netanyahu, and they are not speaking clearly about recognizing the right of Palestinians to self-determination and the right of all citizens in Israel to equality. Peace and equality are our vision, and we will continue to advocate for this vision in the opposition, in the next term of this Knesset.
Sputnik: The leader of the Blue and White Alliance Benny Gantz has recently appealed to Arab voters, calling them “equal and influential in every way,” adding that he would work to help Israeli Arabs – rhetoric which differs from that of Likud. How important is this appeal to Israeli Arabs? How do you assess this step by Gantz?
Dr Yousef Jabareen: I could see the differences in this rhetoric of Gantz as opposed to the ongoing dangerous incitements of Netanyahu. However, Gantz is far from adopting a clear vision of equality for Arab citizens, 20% of the population in Israel, and far from recognizing their national identity and their collective rights in Israel as an ethnic and indigenous minority.
I am afraid that some of this relatively positive rhetoric comes towards election day with the goal of getting some support from Arab voters. Gantz has been bragging about killing Palestinians in Gaza; he has been asking for a more powerful reaction from the Israeli government against Palestinian leaders in Gaza and Hamas. He has also been talking about annexing Israeli settlements. Therefore, although I see the difference in the rhetoric, I don’t see that he is presenting a real and substantive alternative to Netanyahu’s policy.
We in the Joint List are the genuine representatives of the Arab community and pro-peace and human rights supporters. Unfortunately, leaders of Blue and White keep speaking of establishing a national unity government with the Likud and speaking of “government with no Arabs” in obviously racist statements. They might be less racist than Netanyahu, but they are not adopting the human rights vision that we advocate.
This is the message that we are sending out these days to our community and to democratic Jewish forces: The achievement of real equality will be through supporting us in the Joint List. We represent the genuine concerns and genuine plight of our community. We have done this historically over seven decades, and we will continue to do that in the next Knesset term. Yes, we can, and we shall overcome someday.