The leaders of the four parties of the Joint List met on Sunday, January 24, in the Shefa’-Amr home of former Hadash MK and leading Communist Party member Mohammed Barakeh, but made no progress towards reaching an agreement that would allow them to retain their quadripartite electoral alliance towards the March 23 election. Joint List chairman MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash), MK Mansour Abbas (United Arab List), MK Ahmad Tibi (Ta’al) and the outgoing Balad chair, MK Mtanes Shehadeh – met for the first time in several weeks. Despite efforts at reconciliation, the party leaders are not holding out much hope for bridging the gaps that would enable all four parties to run together as a united list.
During the meeting, the Islamic Movement party of Mansour Abbas set conditions for running together with the Joint List that the other three parties cannot accept. Abbas asked that the Joint List not vote for bills that could harm the “conservative religious identity of Arab society,” which is seen as a reference to legislation promoting the rights of the LGBT community. Abbas’s party also asked that it be given freedom from factional discipline on other key issues so that it may pursue its bond with far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Hadash emphatically rejected Abba’s requests and said Islamic Movement faction must respect the political platform and previous agreements between the four parties. “Freedom from factional discipline could mean recommending Netanyahu to form the next government, enabling the passage of a bill that could help him evade prosecution or other stinking political deals with the Likud and the Right,” a Hadash spokesperson said. “Joining or helping a right-wing government or enabling annexation are red lines for us. We will not allow a branch of the Likud to be inside the Joint List.”
Balad is also taking a tougher line against Abbas now that it is led by a new chair, MK Sami Abou Shahadeh, who won the leadership of the party on Saturday night, January 23, beating out incumbent MK Mtanes Shihadeh, who led the party in the last three elections. Abou Shahadeh won the party’s leadership by a vote of 230-159 in Balad’s central committee. According to internal party rules, Mtanes Shihadeh is no longer ineligible to be on the party’s slate in the March election.
Sami Abou Shahadeh entered the Knesset in October 2019 as part of the Joint List. A resident of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, he previously served on the city’s municipal council as a Balad representative, joining Mayor Ron Huldai’s ruling coalition against the will of the three Hadash municipal fraction members in the opposition.