Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Hereís how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.


 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate

Subscribe!
Subscribe





On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.
___________

Syndicate
RSS/XML


RSS 2.0

The ballot is stronger than the bullet

By Alon Ben-Meir - posted Tuesday, 24 February 2015


The Israeli general election, scheduled for March 17, can be fateful for the Israeli Arabs as their voting en masse could change the political map and potentially prevent Netanyahu from forming the next government. They can, and indeed must, defy all parties from the right-of-center who do not wish them to have a voice, ostensibly because the Israeli Arabs cannot be trusted on matters related to peace and national security. But if the Israeli Arabs want equal distribution of resources to improve their socio-economic conditions, fully integrate into Israeli society, and contribute constructively to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, they must now fully exercise their right to vote and not squander this historic opportunity.

The number of Arab voters has dwindled in past elections, from 90% in 1955 to 18% in 2001, and up to just over 50% in the last election. This swing in voting was due to several important factors, including their frustration with the Israeli political system that does not allow much to change, growing complacency due to their general distrust of Israeli governments, and the inability to influence events.

In addition, Israeli Arabs have always been torn between their duty as Israeli citizens and their sense of affinity to their brethren in the West Bank and Gaza as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict grinds on. This is coupled with disappointment with their own leaders, which has further discouraged them from being politically active.

Advertisement

The convergence of several developments in this election has created an unprecedented opportunity for Israeli Arabs to vote en masse and potentially change the political landscape in Israel. To achieve that, the burden of the “get out the vote” campaign falls on the shoulders of their leaders, Israeli Arab mayors, and local Arab political activists.

As it is, the Israeli Arabs are more motivated to vote in this election, especially because of the growing acuteness of their socioeconomic problems, overt discrimination in job opportunities and education, and limits on building permits and neglect of infrastructure. Their strong desire to prevent Netanyahu from advancing the “Nationality bill,” which they consider to be racist, provides further impetus.

Although the formation of a joint list of all the Arab parties—Balad, United Arab List-Ta’al, Hadash and Raam—came about from self-preservation, it has nevertheless engendered new momentum.

Israeli political organizations from the left and left-of-center, who vehemently want to deny Netanyahu another term, are also supporting the Arab list because the larger the number of Arab members in the Knesset, the wider the political base they will muster.

It is true that the Arabs are unlikely to vote in great numbers for Labor/Hatnua, partly because of the characterization of the party as the “Zionist Union” and partly because they are not a part of the political apparatus.

Nevertheless, the prospect of improving their condition and having a say in the political affairs of the country will depend to a great extent on the advent of Labor to power, which explains their tacit cooperation.

Advertisement

To be sure, the Israeli Arabs could be a deciding factor if parties on the right (led by Likud) lose some and the left (led by Labor) win some. Should they vote en masse for their own list, they have the potential of winning as many as 18 seats, emerging as the fourth or even third-largest party and becoming the “blocking bloc” that will prevent Netanyahu from forming a new government.

Even if Likud wins by a small margin over Labor, it is important to note that Israel’s President is not required to assign the leader of the party who wins the most seats to form the new government if he concludes that the left and left-of-center bloc could have a majority vote. For this particular reason, how many seats Arab Knesset members win will matter greatly.

To achieve their objective, the Arab list must first and foremost put forth a political agenda and an effective action plan that appeals especially to the eligible Arab youth, who have been disenchanted and are desperate for meaningful change. Time is short and they must utilize every moment to promote their political agenda.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All


Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

3 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with del.icio.us Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Alon Ben-Meir

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 3 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend
Advertisement

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy