Arab Party Won't Rule Out Joining Herzog Coalition

Specter of a leftist government: if Labor outpaces Likud, Arab party head Odeh says 'we will listen to Herzog and then decide.'

Ari Yashar,

Joint Arab list head Ayman Odeh
Joint Arab list head Ayman Odeh
Danielle Shitrit/Flash 90

As elections draw to a conclusion, speculation continues as to the outcomes - if Labor, headed by Yitzhak Herzog and running on a joint list with Tzipi Livni's Hatnua, manages to outpace Likud, questions remain as to whether it will be able to form a leftist coalition.

A key factor in determining Labor's ability to do so appears to the be the Joint Arab List, a combination of the United Arab List, Balad and Hadash parties together with MK Ahmed Tibi's breakaway party; the list includes Arab nationalists, overt Hamas supporters, Islamists and communists.

While there have been indications that the joint list will not join a coalition under Labor's "Zionist Union," the head of the list, Ayman Odeh told AFP on Tuesday that his party hasn't ruled anything out.

"After the elections, we will listen to what Herzog has to say and then we will decide," Odeh said.

One of the key sticking points appears to be the very name of Herzog's joint list, with the Arab MKs demanding that the "Zionist Union" moniker be dropped as a condition to working together in meetings with Herzog.

Labor in the past ran its ads in Arabic with the name "Zionist Union" erased, and replaced with "the Labor party for peace and equality."

In the interview with AFP, Odeh called the elections "a historic day for the Arabs," saying "today we are giving our answer to racism and to those who want to exclude us."

The move by the Arab parties to run together was spurred by the outgoing coalition's legislation that raised the threshold percentage, threatening several of the parties with the possibility of not making it in and leading them to unite.

"When we have 15 MKs we will be able to influence the decision-making, no-one will be able to act without the third largest party in parliament," said Odeh, referencing polls that have shown the party frequently coming in third. According to the polls the party is slated to get between 11 and 13 seats.

However, there has been talk of a massive Arab voter turnout, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warning that the phenomenon threatens the possibilities of a right-wing government.

AFP spoke with some of the Arab list's supporters; 65-year-old Jihad Ghanim of Jerusalem said "as an Arab who took Israeli nationality, there's no other choice for me, so I'm voting for the Arab List."

"I'm voting based on the issue that's closest to my heart - the Palestinian issue," he said, indicating a desire for peace agreements and Israeli concessions. "I'm hoping the Arabs can be part of a bloc formed against Netanyahu."

Further confirming the warnings of massive Arab turnout, political activist Ahmed Hamdi in Shefaram, an Arab town near Haifa, claimed that by midday Arab turnout was about 27%. Some have estimated that turnout could end up being 66%, ten percentage points higher than last time, due to the Joint List.

"Today we are changing the rules of the game," Hamdi said.




top