Disagreement over a rotation agreement is threatening to dismantle the Joint Arab List, which to date has been a monumental success story in Israeli politics. Two and a half years after its establishment (the result of a failed attempt by Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Liberman to wipe out the small Arab parties through raising the Knesset entry threshold to close to four seats), the 13-member Knesset faction may be collapsing. According to a report in Ha’aretz Monday, the resignation of MK Basel Ghattas (followed by his imprisonment for security violations), has undermined the rotation formula agreed upon by the member parties at the inception of their coalition.
The Joint Arab List (which includes one Jewish MK, Dov Hanin) is made up of four Arab parties, which have absolutely nothing in common ideologically, other than their ethnicity: Hadash (radical Communists), the United Arab List (pro-Palestinian State, Arab nationalists, Bedouin), Balad (democratic reformers hostile to the idea of a Jewish state), and Ta’al (social-reform, pro 2-state solution). With their 13 MKs, they are the third largest faction in the 20th Knesset.
According to the rotation formula, signed on the eve of the last elections, in March 2015, MK Osama Sa’adi (Ta’al), number 12 on the list, would resign halfway through the term, as would Dr. Abdullah Abu Maarouf (Hadash), number 13 on the list, to be replaced by Jum’a Azbarka of Balad and Sa’id al-Harumi of the United Arab List. This way the Knesset faction would include four representatives from Hadash, four from the Central Command, four from Balad and one from Ta’al (MK Ahmad Tibi).
However, about two months ago, Ghattas, from Balad, went to jail for transferring cellphones to terrorists in prisons. His resignation moved up on the Knesset list his fellow Balad member Joumah Azbarga, who used to be in 14th place. Now, Balad is not represented in slots 15 through 18, and its next candidate is in 19th place.
Balad demanded the implementation of the original rotation agreement, which would guarantee them four representatives. This would force the three candidates at slots 16 through 18 to withdraw. Hadash are reluctant to cooperate with this move. Ta’al are not very happy about it either. They appointed a special committee – the same committee which arranged the initial rotation deal – and the committee largely supports the Balad plan, which led to gnashing of teeth and some weeping over at the other partners’.
According to Ha’aretz, this internal debate and the exchange of accusations between the various parties have already harmed the image of the Arab coalition, creating an atmosphere of mistrust, which may not be easily overcome in the next elections.
Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of guys.