Joint List Takes Third Place in Israeli Elections

The parties of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his challenger Isaac Herzog respectively won 29 and 24 Knesset seats out of 120 in the Israeli general elections on Tuesday, March 17. The Joint List won 14 seats, an increase of three for the combination of Hadash and the Arab parties which separately had a total of 11 seats in the past Knesset. The Joint List will most likely be the third-largest party in the next Knesset. “Today we are giving our answer to racism and to those who want to exclude us,” said the leader of the Joint List, Ayman Odeh. “When we have 14 MKs we will be able to influence decision-making; no one will be able to act without the third largest party in the parliament.”

Joint List leader Ayman Odeh voted in Kababir near his Haifa home on Tuesday morning.

Joint List leader Ayman Odeh voted in Kababir near his Haifa home on Tuesday morning. (Photo: Al-Ittihad)

Three hours into the voting, turnout in the Arab sector stood at about 10 percent, compared with 3 percent in 2013. The news quickly reached Prime Minister Netanyahu. “The rule of the right-wing is in danger. Arab voters are going in droves to the polls,” said the right wing leader. “Go to the polls, bring your friends and families, vote Likud!” MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) of the Joint List accused Netanyahu of racism and incitement against Arab voters. “A prime minister who campaigns against voting by citizens belonging to an ethnic minority is crossing a red line of incitement and racism,” said Khenin.

Joint List members said that phone and SMS messages sent by the ruling Likud party urging its supporters to get out and vote to counter the morning’s high Arab turnout, intimidated many Arab citizens and discouraged them from voting. MK Khenin petitioned the Central Elections Committee to force the Likud to immediately cease disseminating such messages. “This is especially grave on Election Day, when the message to all Israeli citizens is to participate in the election, vote and take part in the democratic system. Such messages issued by the prime minister demonstrate that he has completely lost his way and is willing to violate every democratic principle for the sake of staying in power.”

Joint List leader Ayman Odeh voted near his Haifa home in the morning before embarking on a day of campaigning. “Like every Arab citizen of the state today, I’m excited to vote and be part of history and the turning point that will substantially change the lives of Arab citizens and all citizens of the state,” he said. “I urge you all to go out and vote this morning, to believe it’s possible for things to be better here — that we, Arabs and Jews, can create a better future for our children with our own hands.”

In the previous Knesset Hadash had four seats, and now has five: Ayman Odeh, Aida Touma-Sliman, Dr. Dov Khenin, Dr. Youssef Jabareen, and Dr. Abdallah Abu-Maarof. Touma-Sliman, Khenin and Abu-Maarof are members of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Israel.