Palestinian Arab Citizens of Israel: Turnout, Voting, and the Elections

Date: 2019/04/09
The Israeli elections for the 21st Knesset are open today from 7:00 AM until 10:00 PM. The outcome will shape the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as impact the social, economic, and civil rights of Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel.

During the contentious campaign, leading candidates Benjamin Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have made disturbing and targeted comments against the 1.9 million Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, as well as Palestinians living in the occupied Palestinian territories. On Sunday, Netanyahu pledged to annex Area C if his party, Likud, will win the election. Meanwhile, recognizing the political power the Arab community could have in ending the occupation and building regional peace, right-wing parties and the settler movement have directly targeted Palestinian citizens of Israel and their political representatives. In this climate of incitement and exclusion, the Arab population is faced with two options: to vote or not to vote.

 

Palestinian citizens choosing not to vote are hesitant to give legitimacy to a state that has occupied Palestinian lands and discriminated against the indigenous Arab population for seventy years. Others do not see a point in voting, perceiving the differences between Gantz and Prime Minister Netanyahu as meager and the Palestinian Arab political leadership as an ineffective minority in the Knesset. By not voting, however, Palestinian citizens of Israel will allow the right-wing parties to gain unprecedented political power.

 

This year there are two Arab joint lists running for election. In 2015, four Arab parties were joined under a single “Joint List.” Today, the four Arab parties have split into two lists. Both of the lists will have to receive at least 3.25% of the vote (four Knesset seats) in order to enter the Knesset. Split into the group Ta’al-Hadash, headed by Ahmed Tibi and Ayman Odeh, and the group Balad-United Arab List, headed Mansour Abbas and Imtanis Shehadi, the Arab parties are currently polling around eleven seats. In 2015, the Joint List gained thirteen seats. It is unclear where Arab voters’ support will be directed, with 82% of Arab voters having supported the Joint List in 2015.

 

In 2015, 64% of the total eligible Arab citizens voted. Today, only 50% of eligible Arab citizens of Israel are expected to vote. The Mossawa Center highly encourages the civic engagement of the Arab community. The Director of the Mossawa Center, Jafar Farah, called on the community to head to the polls, stating that although “Palestinians do not feel that voting will change the 70-year experience of being marginalised, second-class citizens,” they are the face of the Palestinian community within the state of Israel and have the unique power to affect change through their political agency. He further emphasized the importance of voting to prevent a fifth term for Prime Minister Netanyahu, slamming his government as “the most racist and extreme since the 1960s.” The Mossawa Center encourages civic engagement in all areas of life and, thereby, sees political participation the national elections as an important strategy in the struggle against injustice.

 

For more information regarding the election results, please contact Jafar Farah at [email protected].

 

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