No unified 1948 Palestinian list amid calls for boycott of Israeli Knesset elections

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Knesset members pictured during the vote to dissolve the Knesset on December 3, 2014 in Jerusalem. AFP/Thomas Coex

By: Jamal Sweid

Published Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The decision to raise the electoral threshold for the Israeli Knesset this year was an ominous development for the 1948 Palestinian parties, as it is now more difficult for them to gain enough votes to get seats in the Knesset. This means 1948 Palestinian blocs could be excluded from the Knesset soon.

Occupied Haifa – Immediately after the decision to dissolve parliament, which triggered early elections in March 2015, the 1948 Palestinian parties found themselves in a state of emergency. The 1948 Palestinian parties have to fight a compulsory and sudden battle in the absence of strong popular support, which was eroded as a result of their weak positions during the most recent Israeli assault on Gaza.

From the outset, 1948 Palestinian participation in the Knesset did not lead to tangible achievements. The fragmented 1948 Palestinian parties could not block a single racist or Judaizing law throughout the decades of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

These parties have often been accused of engaging in little more than a theatrical struggle in front of TV cameras. For this reason, perhaps, the 1948 Palestinian parties are extremely reluctant to run in the elections in unified lists, while pressure continue on them to boycott the elections, even in their strongholds, especially following reports that all 1948 Palestinian MKs could vote in favor of social security exemptions for Israeli soldiers.

In any case, there are strenuous negotiations currently taking place between the parties, though results or alliances have yet to emerge. It is not expected for a real united front to be agreed upon. 1948 Palestinian MKs, who are still burdened with the alliances formed for the municipal elections last year, are also at odds with one another over the developments in surrounding Arab countries, particularly Syria.

Although MK Ibrahim Sarsour (from the Islamic Movement) believes that unity is a “popular demand,” he does not explain the reason why his party has been slow to fulfill it. Sarsour predicts that the 1948 Palestinian street would turn out and vote.

On the other hand, MK Jamal Zahalka from the National Democratic Rally (founded by Azmi Bishara), says that increasing the electoral threshold created an impetus for the 1948 Palestinian parties to work towards more unity. He explains at the same time that he does not mind a unified list to have a Jewish candidate, in reference to the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash), which has a quota for a Jewish candidate.

Furthermore, even though there are many differences and disputes between Hadash and the Communist Party, on the one hand, and the National Rally, on the other hand, one can understand from Zahalka’s statements that his party has no qualms about negotiating with Hadash. This was confirmed by meetings in recent days between figures from both sides.

MK Afu Agbaria from the Democratic Front did not differ from the attitudes expressed by the other 1948 Palestinian MKs. He noted that the lineup of the unified list, in the event it is agreed upon, would be a secondary matter. When on Sunday, news leaked that MK Mohammed Baraka (Hadash/Communist Party) would lead the electoral list, the man rushed to deny these reports.

The Knesset election issue for Palestinians living in the territories occupied in 1948 is not confined to negotiations between 1948 Palestinian parties. Another segment believes that boycotting the elections is a matter of principle, and say that the Knesset is not an arena for the struggle at all. As a result, many have decided to boycott the elections.

The boycott movement is led by two components, one partisan and one popular. The partisan component is represented in movements that boycott elections on principle, such as the Abnaa el-Balad movement, and the Islamic Movement (the Raed Salah wing). The popular component is led by academics and students.

A few months ago, the nationalist Kifah movement was founded. It declared from the outset a boycott of elections and the Knesset, arguing that there was no use participating, and saying that the participation of 1948 Palestinian parties provides cover for all Israeli laws and decisions regardless of how much verbal opposition they expressed. However, Kifah also said that the call for a boycott is not against 1948 Palestinian MKs, but against the colonial enterprise and voting for the occupation’s institutions.

Historically speaking, Abnaa al-Balad has had a long-standing record in resisting and delegitimizing the occupation. Its positions have been reiterated by leader Raja Aghbarieh. The Islamic Movement has adopted the same position, which it says is non-negotiable.

On the other hand, Hadash, which includes in its ranks the Communist Party and other left-wing groupings, is one of the oldest parties to participate in Israeli elections, bearing in mind that its popular base consists of an overwhelming majority of 1948 Palestinian communists and leftists, with a small Jewish base. Hadash states in its literature that it is an Arab-Jewish party that believes in partnership and a two-state solution, the same position of the former Soviet Union on the conflict in the region.

The other 1948 Palestinian parties began to emerge successively since the elections of 1988, the year that saw the formation of the Arab Democratic Party, followed by the National Rally (Azmi Bishara), the Arab Movement for Change (Ahmed Tibi), and the Islamic Movement (the southern wing) in the 1990s. The latter emerged after splintering from the northern wing led by Raed Salah, and is in favor of participation in the Knesset.

Follow Jamal Sawaied on Twitter | @JamalSawaied

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

So what is the new threshold?

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