MK Jamal Zahalka, chairman of the Balad faction in the Joint Arab List, late Tuesday night told Yaacov Eichler on Reshet Bet radio that “Action must be taken that will bring an end to the Israeli occupation. I mean there will be a popular uprising, civil uprising, in the West Bank against the occupation. One hundred thousand Palestinians can circle a settlement and separate it from the outside world.”
In response, on Wednesday MK Bezalel Smotich (Yamina) wrote Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit demanding a criminal investigation of Zahalka, whose statement Smotrich believes to be “incitement to terrorism and violence in their clearest form,” asserting that “those one hundred thousand Palestinians who would circle a settlement and separate it from the outside world” will likely not be there to sing Kumbaya.
MK Smotrich noted that MK Zahalka’s statement follows a long list of similarly outrageous statements by him and other Balad members that supported and participated in acts of terrorism and violence, concluding: “It appears the time has come to put an end to it.”
In the run-up to the 21st Knesset elections, Zahalka announced that he would not run. In the elections to the 23rd Knesset, Zahalka was placed 118th on the Joint Arab List.
Balad is the most extreme anti-Zionist partner in the Joint Arab List, with former members such as Haneen Zoabi who participated in the 2010 flotilla to the Gaza Strip that ended in a deadly clash with the Israeli navy. The party’s stated purpose is the “struggle to transform the state of Israel into a democracy for all its citizens, irrespective of national or ethnic identity.” It opposes the idea of Israel as a solely Jewish state and supports its recasting as a binational state.
In 2007, Zahlaka called for the dissolution of the Jewish National Fund, which he said was a “colonialist and racist organization.” Zahalka opposes the national service of Arab youth, and warned that “whoever chooses to volunteer for national service will be considered a leper in our eyes, and Arab society will vomit him out of it.”
Zahlaka’s astonishingly extreme statement Tuesday night was probably a response to efforts on the most moderate faction of the Arab list, Ra’am, whose chairman, Mansour Abbas, has been cooperating with the coalition government and is said to be forging a new friendship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In recent months, polls of Israeli Arabs have shown that about 30% of them who in the past voted for the Joint Arab List would prefer to vote for a different party, citing the new horizon that was opened by Israel’s peace agreements with several Arab states. As polls have been cutting the Joint Arab List’s potential Knesset presence from its current 15 to a future 12 seats, Zahlaka and the list members who continue to see a Palestinian state as their highest goal, are desperate to correct this course shift their faction seems to be making.