Photo Credit: Yehonatan Valtser/TPS
Mtanes Shihadeh (L), Aida Touma Suleiman (2L), Ahmad Tibi (2R) and Mansour Abbas (R), MKs from the Joint List party, speak with the press following their meeting with MKs from Blue and White party, regarding their involvement in a possible minority government. Jerusalem, Mar 11, 2020.

The Knesset Committee unanimously approved on Thursday the requests of the various factions comprising the Joint Arab List party to split away, ending weeks of negotiations within the Arab-majority party that ended in an impasse.

Member of Knesset (MK) Mansour Abbas requested that his faction, the United Arab List (Ra’am), split away from the Joint List.

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Ra’am is the political wing of the Southern Branch of the Islamic movement.

MK Ahmad Tibi requested that his Ta’al faction be separated from the Joint List.

The Joint List faction now includes the Hadash and Balad factions with MKs Ayman Odeh, Mranes Shehadeh, Aida Toma Suleiman, Ofer Kasif, Hiba Yazbek, Yousef Jabarin, Jaber Askala and Sami Abu Shehadeh.

MKs Osama Saadi and Walid Taha, who presented the division request at the committee discussion, claimed that the request was only technical for “a more efficient organization in the elections” and that the requests did not indicate a “substantial split” in the Joint Faction.

However, the official request came after weeks of squabbling between the various factions and disagreements on crucial issues.

The Islamist Ra’am demanded that the Joint List refrain from supporting anti-religious motions such as gay rights, but the other factions refused.

Another issue under dispute was the cooperation with the government and working with the Zionist political parties.

The parties still have a week to regroup or reconfigure their lists before the final official date for submitting the list for the upcoming March 23 elections, Israel’s fourth round in less than two years.

The elections come as the left-center bloc is divided, the Arab-majority Joint List is on the verge of final dissolution, and four parties that will combat each other are running on the right, ensuring an acrimonious period in an already toxic environment in Israel.

Polls show that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party is in the lead with about 30 seats while Blue and White, his former chief coalition partner, has lost most of its power and is on the verge of not passing the voting threshold.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.