Skip to main content

The bitter victory of Israel’s Arab party

Members of the Arab Joint List are proud of their achievement of 15 Knesset seats, but are deeply disappointed over the failure of the left-wing camp.
SHEFA AMR, ISRAEL - MARCH 3: Head of the  Joint List Ayman Odeh (2nd L), the members Heba Yazbak (R), Mansour Abbas (L), Mtanes Shehadeh (3rd L), Aida Touma (4th R), Ahmed Tibi (4th L) and Ofer Cassif (2nd R) attend a program  in Israel's northern city of Shefa-Amr on March 2, 2020, after polls officially closed in Israeli general elections. (Photo by Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Mixed feelings of victory and a missed opportunity, happiness and frustration, pride and disappointed accurately describe the emotions at the headquarters of the Arab Joint List with the airing of the exit polls at 10 p.m. local time on March 2. The high turnout of Arab voters, probably around 69%, brought the Joint List to the unprecedented achievement of 15 Knesset seats (according to Channel 11 and  Channel 12 exit polls) or 14 seats (as per the Channel 13 exit polls). There is thus no doubt that in the 2020 elections, the alliance of four Arab parties managed to restore the trust of the Arab community in Israel’s political system, which has done its best to alienate the 21% minority and continues to do so. The last time that happened was in 1999, when Arab voter turnout almost equaled the general turnout (75% compared to 78.7%). The high March 2 turnout attests to a healing of the wounds inflicted by the October 2000 rioting, in which police shot dead 12 Israeli-Arabs and one non-Israeli Palestinian, and an end to the subsequent Arab voter boycott.

“Arab society has taken a big step and heeded the call to come out and vote,” the Arab Joint List chair, Knesset member Ayman Odeh, said with satisfaction. However, his fellow Knesset member Yousef Jabarin also expressed disappointment. “Arab voters came out en masse to the ballot boxes and expressed their confidence in us. We are proud of our growing strength and will stand up to the radical right and its destructive initiatives. Blue and White did not present a real alternative, did not offer hope and its dreams of a 'Jewish majority' were a failure in the making,” he tweeted.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 for annual access.