Jamal Zahalka
Jamal Zahalka Flash 90

Outgoing Arab MK Jamal Zahalka on Saturday said that his Balad party is not part of the Israeli left but rather “an integral part of the Palestinian national movement”.

Zahalka’s comments came at the start of the Balad party primaries and were quoted by Kan 11 News. During the primaries, Mtanes Shihadeh was elected to head Balad in the 21st Knesset instead of Zahalka, who announced last month that he would not run in the April election.

In his speech, Zahalka called on Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas to lift the sanctions on Hamas in Gaza and to stop the security coordination with Israel.

"The Palestinians in Gaza are our flesh," Zahalka said. He blasted Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and called him "a war criminal responsible for the deaths of thousands."

Zahalka did not stop there, as he also attacked former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, now the head of the Israel Resilience Party, saying he competes with Netanyahu's extremism and criticizes him only on matters of corruption.

Zahalka called to maintain the Joint List, an alliance between Balad, Hadash and Ra’am-Ta’al, "even if there is criticism of its functioning." He also took a shot at MK Ahmed Tibi, whose Ta’al party recently split from the Joint List.

Without mentioning Tibi’s name, Zahalka said that those who split from the Joint List are acting against it and will be punished on election day.

Zahalka, like many of the Arab MKs, has made many controversial anti-Israel statements while in office.

He has stressed that he does not regret any of his statements, including saying that he "prefers to die than to sing the Israeli anthem," and that the Israeli flag is "worse than a rag."

In addition to Zahalka, Balad MK Hanin Zoabi has also said she will not seek reelection.