Ahmed Tibi Splits Ra'am-Ta'al, Forms One-Man Party

Efforts to unify Arab parties took a step backwards Thursday as the Ra'am-Ta'al (UAL) list of four MKs decided to split.

Moshe Cohen,

Ahmed Tibi
Ahmed Tibi
Hadas Parush/Flash 90

Although leaders of Israel's Arab political establishment have been working very hard to unite the country's three largest Arab parties, unity efforts took a step backwards Thursday as the Ra'am-Ta'al party (United Arab List) of four MKs decided to split. Knesset Committee chairman MK Ze'ev Elkin authorized the split, which will see MK Ahmed Tibi take with him the Ta'al name, establishing it as an independent party with him as its sole MK.

Tibi said that the split was done with the agreement of all party members. He said that the parties might reunite again for the elections under a single unified Arab list, that would include Ra'am, Ta'al, Balad, and Hadash. On the other hand, he told reporters, he might put together his own list and run the party in the elections independently.

“The chances for either are fifty-fifty,” he said. Tibi has until January 29 to decide.

The raising of the electoral threshold for Knesset representation to a minimum of 3.25% means that parties essentially need to get enough votes to qualify for four Knesset seats, something that Arab parties have rarely done. Various polls have shown that if three Arab parties run for the Knesset separately, only one – maybe – would get enough votes for representation.

The parties earlier this year filed a petition with the High Court against the threshold increase, but the court refused to consider the case, saying that it was the Knesset's business, and that Arab parties had sufficient opportunity to deal with the situation by unifying.

In contrast, polls have shown that a single Arab list would increase the generally low participation of Arab voters in Israeli elections by as much as 10%, with the single list achieving anything between 10 to 13 seats in the next Knesset. However, political experts believe that the chances that the parties will be able to unite into a single list is low because of the diverse interests of the three parties, which represent different regions, populations, ethnic groups, and ideologies.

While Balad and Ra'am/Ta'al, which respectively represent Bedouin Negev and Galilee Arabs, for example, might find a way to work together, voters of either or both might find it difficult to stomach inclusion of Hadash, the Israeli Communist Party, the experts said.

On the other hand, Israel Radio reported Thursday that Arab members of Labor were up in arms over the party's adoption of the term “Zionist Camp” to represent itself in the upcoming elections.

“They are getting some very bad advice,” said Labor MK Galeb Magadle, who is number 35 on the Zionist Camp list - a very “unrealistic” position for election, considering that the polls show the party not getting more than 20-something seats. “They are throwing away 75,000 Arab voters, who will go elsewhere, just to appeal to 150,000 Jews, who would vote for them anyway. This is going to hurt Labor,” he insisted.