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Israel’s Arab voters hold Netanyahu’s fate in their hands. But there’s a big catch

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Published: 7 October 2022

Last updated: 5 March 2024

Israelis in the anti-Bibi camp don’t understand why Arab citizens are reluctant to vote and deliver the country from Netanyahu. They should.

There is something disturbing about how Israeli Jews are expressing their entitlement to Arab turnout. Many of the anti-Netanyahu camp are centrists who haven’t given much thought to the realities of Arab life in Israel. Others from the Left seem oblivious as to why Palestinian citizens of Israel are not rushing to join the cause.

But Palestinian citizens have historic grievances, coalition considerations, and recent policy disappointments; all of which weigh down or even suffocate their electoral motivation. Many Jewish Israelis seem oblivious to these considerations, and expect they would jump to prevent the return of Netanyahu and the far Right.

At the historic level, the collective experience of Palestinians in Israel was never structurally worse than under the Zionist Left. It was Mapai (forerunner of today’s Labor) who kept them hostage from 1948 as subjects of martial law, trapped wherever they resided (after many were internally displaced), immobilised and socially decimated for approximately two decades of military rule.

Polling regularly shows that Palestinian citizens in Israel support in great numbers an Arab party joining the governing coalition, even if the portion has declined over the year – still 58% of Arabs in the July Peace Index by Tel Aviv University supported either Raa’m or any Arab party joining the next coalition.

But many also feel disappointed by the last year – or even betrayed. For those Arab voters, Ra’am’s decision to serve a hard-Right Jewish nationalist heavily associated with the settler community was not what they had in mind. The Zionist Left seemed to celebrate Naftali Bennett’s moderate new image, but many Arab voters weren’t impressed, and didn’t notice or accept his overnight political rebranding.

Many (not only Arab voters) noticed that the government behaved in ways that were more right –wing than its predecessor regarding the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

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Israel's Arab voters hold Netanyahu's fate in their hands. But there's a big catch (Haaretz)

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