A day after the Israeli general election, Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid (There is a Future) list that won 19 seats, making him the kingmaker in coalition talks, hit the ground running with a direct attack on Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Responding to talk (video in Hebrew) that Israel’s so-called “center-left” parties would join forces to block the reappointment of Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister, Lapid ruled out the possibility of working with Arab parties:
“I heard talk about establishing a preventative bloc – I want to take this option off the table,” Lapid said Wednesday. “We will not establish a preventative bloc with (Balad MK) Hanin Zuabi,” Lapid said, referring to the fact that if he were to try to form his own center-left government he would have to include the Arab parties.
Lapid also said Israelis had voted for “normality.” Indeed the normality he was endorsing with this statement was to continue the racist exclusion of Arab parties from political power in Israel.
Israeli Jewish public overwhelmingly supports exclusion of Arabs
Reflecting the populism that fueled his rise, Lapid was expressing mainstream sentiments. The Israeli Democracy Institute found in an October 2012 survey (PDF) that “a considerable majority of the Jewish public (64%) opposes the inclusion of Arab parties in the coalition to be formed after the elections.”
Haneen Zoabi was one of three members of the National Democratic Assembly (Balad) reelected yesterday. She has been frequently vilified, attacked and threatened by Israeli politicians for challenging their racism and calling for all citizens to have equal rights, a demand that contradicts Israel’s self-definition as a “Jewish state.”
The electoral commission initially banned Zoabi from standing because she traveled aboard the Mavi Marmara in 2010, and later banned a TV election broadcast from her party, but both decisions were overturned by the high court.
While four million Palestinians living under Israeli rule in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip cannot vote in Israeli elections, 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of Israel are eligible to vote, but because they are shunned by Zionist parties that form the government, they are almost as powerless as the rest of the Palestinian population.
Arab parties hold their ground
As Palestinian citizens of Israel face increasing hostility and racist laws many feared their turnout at the polls would fall even lower than the 53 percent it hit in 2009.
But in the end Arab parties won 12 seats in the 120 Knesset; 3 went to Balad, 4 to Hadash, the Communist Party – both unchanged from 2009, and the United Arab List gained one seat for a total of 5.
Leaders of Balad said their party had won more than 95,000 votes, an increase of 11,000 from the 2009 election and that 8,000 of those new votes were in the southern Naqab (Negev) region where the indigenous Bedouin population faces intensified ethnic cleansing by Israeli authorities and the Jewish National Fund.