Balad (National Democratic Alliance) announced Sunday night that it would join the Joint Arab List that had been resurrected on Sunday by the three other Arab parties Hadash (Democratic Front for Peace and Equality, headed by Ayman Odeh), Ta’al (Arab Movement for Renewal, headed by the charismatic Ahmad Tibi), and Ra’am (United Arab List).
Balad is considered the most extremist anti-Israel Arab party and in the past featured Azmi Bishara, who in 2007 fled Israel to avoid facing treason charges; Haneen Zoabi, who sailed onboard the 2010 flotilla that attempted to break through the IDF closure on Gaza which resulted in great bloodshed; and Basel Ghattas, who was convicted on passing contraband cellphones to terrorists in an Israeli prison.
In the last elections, these parties ran as two separate factions, disappointing Arab voters who stayed home on election day. The result was a decrease from 13 to 10 seats for the Arab parties in the Knesset.
The rifts and the inability to maintain a constant coalition in the Arab parties are to be expected: they represent four radically different agendas. Indeed, the only reason they ran together in the first place was the new, increased vote threshold to 3.25%, which placed all four party in jeopardy.
But in a situation in which the Islamist, Communist, Nationalist, and just plain anti-Jewish factions were lumped together by nothing more than their need for survival, the headlines were made by the noisiest members – Balad.
Even after they had lost three seats in April, and despite their declarations about the need to re-establish the joint list, the heads of the Arab parties found it difficult to reach an agreement on the division of the combined slate among the four groups of candidates.
They formed an “agreement committee” composed of public representatives and dignitaries in the Arab sector, with the aim of reaching understandings and settlements. Earlier this month, the committee had announced a press conference in Nazareth to officially announce the slate, only to cancel the conference hastily and return to the drawing board.
With the August 1 deadline nearing fast, the four Arab forced-partners will have to come up with a slate, or suffer even greater rejection by their voters. But even today, the new leftwing Israeli party, whose key member, Meretz, was saved from extinction by the Arab voters – are luring many more Arab voters away from a mixed bag of contradictory agendas to a straight leftist party with Arab representation.