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Israel’s Arab party facing a dilemma

The Balad party is not interested in supporting a Gantz-led government, but it knows that voters of the Arab Joint List do not want another Netanyahu-led government, either.
Memebers of the  Joint List party arrive to the Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to begin talks with political parties over who should form a new government, at his residence in Jerusalem, September 22, 2019. Menachen Kahana/Pool via REUTERS - RC1BF3A36D90

The nationalist Arab Balad party is once again an obstacle to the formation of a new Israeli government led by Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz, just as it was after the September 2019 elections. At the time, following the elections to the 22nd Knesset, the three Balad representatives in the Joint List alliance of Arab parties refused to join their colleagues in recommending to President Reuven Rivlin that he task Gantz with forming a government. The situation now is even more complex. None of the Arab voters who sent 15 representatives to the 23rd Knesset on March 2 is likely to blame Balad for refusing to back Gantz in light of his Blue and White’s “Jewish majority” election campaign that ruled out cooperation with the Arab Joint List in order to curry favor with right-wing voters.

For now, Blue and White appears to be going for a minority government if Rivlin gives the nod to Gantz in the coming days. Surprisingly, the first to blink on this issue was Knesset member Moshe Ya’alon of the Blue and White’s leadership quartet. Ya’alon, whose Telem party constitutes the hard-line flank of Blue and White, had persistently opposed a minority government backed by the Joint List. However, according to a March 5 Haaretz report, Ya’alon no longer rules out Joint List support for a centrist government, albeit without Balad. Ya’alon has neither confirmed nor denied the report, but a look at his latest tweets reveals what led to his change of heart. “Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu], You have dragged the State of Israel to three rounds of elections in order to evade [your criminal corruption trial] and failed. Rather than conceding your defeat, you are using incitement and sedition, spreading lies and calling for civil war,” Ya’alon tweeted on March 7. In another tweet, the former defense minister referred to the March 7 beating of a protester from the Movement for Quality Government by a pro-Netanyahu activist in Jerusalem, alleging he was responsible for “the blood of a protester spilled over the weekend” and urging him to “stop before things spiral out of control.”

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