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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.

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

21-year-old killed in Clashes with Israeli Army in West Bank (Haaretz)
The Palestinian Health Ministry says the man was shot during clashes with soldiers near Nablus, with five other people being wounded by gunfire

3 Israelis, 8 tourists enter PA-controlled Hebron area, extracted by Abbas’s forces (Times of Israel)
Two Israeli vehicles are surrounded by Palestinian crowd; group is handed over to Israeli troops; no injuries in second such event in two days

Opinion: Enough with Netanyahu's hypocrisy on the Palestinian question (Jerusalem Post)
Netanyahu’s claim – that the world ignored the Palestinians until Lapid revived their cause – is delusional. Calling for a Palestinian state is ritualistic for western diplomats.

These Religious Voters Could Decide the Country's Direction (Haaretz)
Gantz, Shaked or the far-Right party called Religious Zionism? Israel's national-religious voters struggle to find a political home ahead of the country's fifth election

Kahanism’s triumphant makeover (972)
Itamar Ben Gvir, the star of Israel’s most far-Right party, is thriving from a national political discourse that allows him to accomplish what his predecessors could not: bringing Kahanism to the mainstream.

Palestinian boy 'frightened to death' by Israeli soldiers mourned by classmates (Middle East Eye)
Seven-year-old Rayyan Sulaiman died of a heart attack after being chased by Israeli soldiers. The loss hangs heavy over his home and school

High Court: Israel can wait until after election before dealing with evacuation of contested Bedouin village (Haaretz)
In 2009, the government decided to issue demolition orders for buildings in Khan al-Ahmar, near Kfar Adumim, where dozens of Bedouin families who were expelled from the Negev in the 1950s were sent

Photo: Palestinian citizens of Israel protest then-Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu visiting the northern Arab city of Nazareth before elections last year (AP/Sebastian Scheiner/Haaretz)

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