Articles > > Food for Thought

Articles - Addostour - Date: 2020-03-10
By: Oraib Al Rantawi

An observation my old colleague Hani Habib made in the Palestinian daily al-Ayyam a few days ago gave me food for thought: The Israeli army ballot box tally revealed that 10,000 enlisted Jews voted for the Joint Arab List [in the March 2nd Israeli parliamentary elections].
According to Habib, a total of 16,000 votes went to the Joint Arab List, and since there are no more than 6,000 enlisted Arabs, that means that the vote difference came from Jewish soldiers who have grown disillusioned of voting for the Israeli left.
This is a new chapter in the election upheaval that has struck the Israeli left. In an emergent phenomenon that we discussed in a past article, the number of Jews who voted for the Joint Arab List has spiked, with some sources reporting that their votes won the list a seat or two [out of a record total of 15]. The discrepancy between these estimates can be attributed to the difficulty of distinguishing between Jewish and Arab votes in mixed cities.
We would not go as far as to assume there has been a qualitative or radical change in the Israeli left's character or identity. We are still talking about a phenomenon that is limited, if unprecedented, in scope. The number of Arab [Palestinian citizens of Israel] votes for Zionist parties is still higher than Jewish votes for Arab parties.
Nor do we want to conclude that this phenomenon will inevitably and certainly escalate, and that it is not a temporary one or a reaction in protest against the Israeli left's ineptitude and opportunism, and its alliances' shifts to the right in many situations and junctures. It may well be a temporary or incidental phenomenon, and is likely to be more about punishing the Israeli left than confidence in the Arab MKs.
Within the coming days, we will witness one test to the Joint Arab List and another as to the nature and scope of the Israeli left's transformations, when [opposition Kahol Lavan leader] Benny Gantz begins negotiations with Joint List MKs on endorsing and externally supporting his proposed government. The Joint List's ability to maintain unity and overcome its past division (last September), when Balad party MKs declined to nominate Gantz as PM, although the rest of the Arab parties did, not out of love or confidence in his program, but rather a desire to topple PM Netanyahu and punish him for the mound of inflammatory racist laws and practices against the country's indigenous [Arab] population.
We will also witness a major test to the so-called 'center-left' coalition represented by the Kahol Lavan bloc, which will find itself allied to both the left (Labor-Meretz) and the right (represented by [former defense minister] Avigdor Lieberman). We will monitor the extent of Gantz's responsiveness and Labor-Meretz's support for the Arabs' demands, some of which pertain to their 'civil rights' such as health, education, housing, safety, etc., while others fall under their 'national rights' in their capacity as an integral part of the Palestinian people and its national project, which faces its most dangerous threat in the form of the [Trump administration] 'deal of the century' and the expansion, settlement, annexation, and Judaization it authorizes.
We expect Gantz to respond to some of the Arabs' demands as citizens, without humoring their demands as Palestinian 'patriots'. At this juncture it is difficult to predict what the Arab MKs will ask for and how Benny Gantz, who is encircled by the right and the left, will respond to their demands.
As a consequence, there is one piece of good news: After Netanyahu's victories peaked in the recent elections and he puffed up like a peacock before his audience and constituents, it appears that he is unable to form a new government for the third time.
As the days pass, his inability is exposed all the more clearly, especially after the other Israeli parties have found themselves forced to reveal their hand instead of keeping their cards close to their chest.