Representatives of Hadash (The Democratic Front for Peace and Equality – Communist Party of Israel), Balad and Ta’al – all of which were a part of the Joint List in the last election – have agreed to run together in the upcoming elections to be held on March 23. Three of the four factions of Joint List – Hadash, Ta’al and Balad – signed an agreement on Thursday morning, February 4, to run together in Israel’s general election for the 24th Knesset, the fourth election in two years, parting ways with the Islamic United Arab List (Ra’am) after a prolonged period of disagreements.
The general secretary of Hadash, Mansour Dahamsheh, who participated in the negotiations between the constituent parties said, “There will be no Joint List with four parties. However, the Joint List is continuing without Mansour Abbas, (head of Ra’am) who has chosen the side of the far-right government against democracy and the interests of the Arab community,” Zo Haderech reported.
“Unfortunately, we’ve failed” in bringing together the four parties, a Hadash spokesperson said. “The Joint List will not continue in its current lineup… Joining, aiding or abetting the right-wing government, the annexation of the occupied Palestinian territories or settlements is a red line from our perspective. We won’t allow a branch of the Likud party to be within the Joint List.” According to Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List), “Abbas is the responsible of the breakup; he had renounced all the promises and agreements we had.”
Tensions between Hadash and the other three parties in the Joint List had been rising steadily over the past few months, stoked by the renegade Ra’am’s party chief MK Mansour Abbas. Abbas has publicly pursued closer ties with racist and far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a move seen by his Joint List colleagues as beyond the pale.
Ra’am has attempted to frame the debate in religious terms, publically demanding that the other parties refrain from voting in support of “perverts” and “perversion” (sic, LGTB people). The demand is a thinly veiled reference to Hadash’s decision to vote in favor of a bill that outlawed so-called “conversion therapy” for LGBT people and for their rights. “They both refuse to respect the values of religion and society, and also want to cool their heels on the bench of the political arena,” Abbas said of Hadash on Wednesday.
Ra’am further demanded total freedom in voting in the Knesset — including the freedom to vote for Netanyahu’s immunity from prosecution. Netanyahu has been indicted on fraud, bribery and breach of trust, and has long been believed to be seeking to pass legislation that would keep him out of court. The other three Joint List parties demanded that the bloc stick to its pervious decisions, and said supporting immunity for Netanyahu would cross a red line.
Several meetings between Joint List representatives were held over the past several weeks in an attempt to maintain the bloc’s unity ahead of the March elections. However, the clashes — both in private and in the media — have only intensified with time, with the parties taking shots at one another in public. The tensions have been compounded by an aggressive campaign by Netanyahu to court Arab votes. Netanyahu, previously known more for racist declarations and for denouncing Arab voters heading to vote “in droves” against him, has been regularly meeting with Arab mayors in an attempt to gain votes from their constituencies.