Late Thursday night, January 22, in an unprecedented, historic move, Hadash (The Democratic Front for Peace and Equality – Communist Party of Israel) and the Arab parties Balad, Ta’al and Ra’am announced that they will run as a joint list in the upcoming March 17 elections. The slate, to be called “The Joint List,” will be headed by Ayman Odeh of the Arab-Jewish Hadash front, followed by Masud Ghnaim of the Islamist Ra’am in second place and Balad’s Jamal Zahalka in the third spot. Ahmed Tibi (Ta’al) will be in fourth place on the list, followed by Aida Touma-Sliman from Hadash, the first woman on the list. Eighth place will go to Hadash’s Dov Khenin. Dr. Yousef Jabareen of Hadash will take the tenth place.
Ideologically disparate, Hadash and the Arab parties have historically run separately in general elections for the Knesset. However, a fundamentally anti-democratic law, intended primarily to undermine these political forces – the parties overwhelming voted for by Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel – was spearheaded last year by Avigdor Liberman of the extreme-right Israel Beitenu and neo-liberal Yair Lapid. This law raised the election threshold from 2.0 to 3.25 percent (four Knesset seats), meaning that, in order to enter the Knesset at all, a list has to receive enough votes for a minimum of four representatives. A list that gets sufficient votes for only three seats, for example, (based on previous election statistics, approximately 80,000 votes) simply doesn’t make the cut; and these votes count for nothing, essentially disenfranchising those citizens who cast their ballot for that list. Seeing as, in the outgoing Knesset, none of the Arab parties, on its own, had four representatives (only a previous alliance between Ta’al and Ra’am gave them four seats; Hadash as a united Arab-Jewish front also received four, but just barely) the threat of the Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel being significantly disenfranchised was real and imminent. Under such dire circumstances, the parties were compelled to consider joining forces, despite their ideological differences, in order to retain representation in the Knesset for the Arab-Palestinian minority in Israel, the true target of Liberman & Co’s draconian legislation. Hadash and the Arab parties began preliminary negotiations soon after the breakup of Netanyahu’s coalition and the moving up of the elections for the 20th Knesset. In recent days, after both Hadash and nationalist Balad party elected their individual slates, the negotiations were intensified and ultimately brought to a successful conclusion.
Most public opinion polls predict that the Joint List will win between 12 and 15 seats in the Knesset. It is also predicted that between 60 and 70 percent of Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel will vote, now that Hadash and the Arab parties are running on a joint list, compared to 56 percent who voted in the last elections in 2013.