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The surprising political tactics of Israel’s Arab party

The Joint List decided not to immediately recommend Benny Gantz for premiership so that he does not form a unity party with the Likud and leave the Joint List out.
Ahmad Tibi, leader of the Ta'al party faction, is surrounded by supporters during an election campaign event in the Wadi Ara, in northern Israel February 2, 2019. Picture taken February 2, 2019. REUTERS/Ammar Awad - RC1BF8975AF0
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The main reason for the dramatic increase in the number of Arab voters in the Sept. 17 election was the desire of Israeli Arab voters to take revenge on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the polls for his incitement against them. The leaders of the Joint List — a unified slate of predominantly Arab parties — even say openly that the Likud and the prime minister’s incitement campaign and the attempt to depict them as election stealers moved voters to flock to the polls. “Listen Abu Yair (meaning Netanyahu), incitement has a price,” tweeted Joint List Chairman and Knesset member Ayman Odeh on the morning of Sept. 18. In another tweet the next day, Odeh reveled in the Joint List’s ability to determine who would be charged with forming the next government. “For your information, the balance of a scale in Arabic is bidt al-kaban,” he wrote.

Seemingly, it’s quite logical that the Joint List would recommend to Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin to charge Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz with forming the government. But when other political calculations are added to the equation, it’s not clear that this will happen. Recommending Gantz, that is, realizing the will of the Israeli Arab voters to take revenge at Netanyahu for incitement against the Arab public, has a political price for the Joint List. Thus, it intends not to recommend anyone and will choose to wait for the second round, with the assumption that the initial person recommended would fail in the task of forming a government.

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