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Legislative in Israel, the Arab vote divided

The headquarters of the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality is located among the bars and restaurants of Ben-Gurion Boulevard, which descends from the Baha’i Temple to the sea in the port of Haifa in the Galilee. Inside, the walls are lined with communist and Palestinian flags.

Heir to the communist party established even before the State of Israel, Hadash, its acronym in Hebrew, is today primarily an Arab party. To the smell of revolution, of coffee with cardamom and of cigarettes, is added that of exhaustion. A few days before the legislative elections of 1er November, the campaign is struggling to take off. “It is difficult to raise the troops for the fifth elections in less than four years”, explains Saleh, director of the student center.

There is not just that. “Arab voters feel betrayed by the division among the parliamentarians supposed to represent them”, explains Amal Jamal, a political scientist at Tel Aviv University. In 2015, the four Arab parties came together in the Joint Arab List, which won 15 seats out of 120 by 2020, a huge weight in a divided Knesset.

Participation down 20% in 2020

Mansour Abbas and his party, the United Arab List (Raam), close to the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, then moved away, out of pragmatism: it was better to put the Palestinian question aside and join the government, whatever it was, to to improve the lives of Palestinians in Israel. Mansour Abbas therefore joined the coalition in 2021, a first for an Arab party.

A few weeks ago, Balad, a nationalist and secular party, followed suit, refusing any collaboration with the Zionist parties. Only Hadash and his partner Ta’al, nationalist and rather bourgeois, remain, who refuse to completely close the door to Israeli politics, partly to block a radicalizing right.

The first victim of these divisions is the participation of Arab voters. In 2020, it had fallen by 20 points, to less than 45%, and could fall further this time. The only certainty of the polls: the score looks tight between pro and anti-Netanyahu. But in the Israeli system, with full proportional representation, a few tens of thousands of votes can make the difference.

Speak or silence the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Near Ben-Gurion Boulevard, the Wadi Nisnas neighborhood is almost exclusively Palestinian and a stronghold of Hadash. At the entrance, a huge poster of Mansour Abbas boasts: “Being closer to the plate. » Its strategy is clear: the primary concerns of Arab citizens are organized crime and economic problems, not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is by being part of the government and approaching the wallet that the Islamist leader hopes to meet these expectations.

It won’t work, says Souad Makhoul, an artist and urban planner who opened “the first Palestinian art gallery in Haifa since 1948”. A mixed city, Haifa was emptied of its Palestinian population when the State of Israel was created. Those who remained were herded into the Wadi Nisnas ghetto, which has now become a culinary attraction for many Jewish Israelis, who are often unaware of the place’s conflicted history.

A tour guide takes his group to taste traditional bread next to the gallery. He casts a sidelong glance at Souad. “He is a friend of my son, we agree on almost everything politically, she says. But he doesn’t want to show my gallery, just because the adjective Palestinian is too toxic for his clients. »

Depending on their class or where they live, “Members of the Arab minority in Israel have lived a common reality of discrimination since 1948. And they are an integral part of the Palestinian nation”, says Professor Amal Jamal. These elections will therefore be a referendum for all Arab parties. “Voters will want to penalize Mansour Abbas for his neglect of the Palestinian cause. But the other parties must understand that there is no point in asking them to vote if they do nothing with their vote. »


Netanyahu leads the polls

In the Israeli proportional system, parties must obtain a minimum of 3.25% of the votes cast to enter Parliament.

Latest polls credit Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud with first place with 31 seats out of the 120 elected members of the Knesset, against 24 for Yesh Atid (“There is a future”) of centrist Prime Minister Yaïr Lapid, and 14 for the “Religious Zionism” list (extreme right) of Itamar Ben- Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, a first.

Israel Beitenou and the Labor Party are each credited with six seats, the Meretz of five. Hadash-Ta’al and the Joint List would win four seats each.

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