One way to go

Arab citizens of Israel amount to about 20% of the population, but are largely disconnected from mainstream politics. There are several reasons. For example, traditionally their turnout at the polls has been low. And to add insult to injury, those who could be bothered to vote were faced with many parties to choose from, even if they focused exclusively on those from their own sector.

The scenario has changed with the raising of the threshold – the minimum percentage of the vote required to guarantee a seat in the Knesset – from 2 to 3.25%. For me, the raise was a good move towards the general (higher) European standards. (Note that in Turkey, the threshold is 10%.)

The response of the smaller parties has been to band together in one list. As the Times of Israel puts it:

Israel’s Arab political parties are banding together under one ticket for the first time ever ahead of national elections in March, hoping to boost turnout and help unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The result is an awkward political marriage of communists, Palestinian nationalists, religious Muslims, feminists and even one Jew. But Arab politicians say it will improve chronically low Arab voter turnout and help block Netanyahu from forming the next government.

First, although there’s an opinion poll that suggests the combined list will improve voter turnout, the reported improvement is both woeful and only theoretical. Let’s see whether people actually bother to vote. After all, when you vote you have to get up and go to the polling station. It’s not like taking part in an opinion poll, when the pollsters come to you!

Second, look how different the parts of the list are. What does that tell us? There is no single Arab perspective? That’s good. But only if they can find a party that represents them. (It may explain why Shas, traditionally, went out of their way to curry favor with Arab towns, and was successful in attracting their votes.)  I wonder what efforts the mainstream parties are making, and should be making, to get these votes and get the Arab population involved in the democracy.

Third, it’s notable that the aim is to block Netanyahu from getting in. Wouldn’t it be a better goal to achieve something positive? To campaign for and promote changes in the law that they see as necessary and important fro their potential constituents? Or is this AP’s spin?

Whatever the outcome, it will be interesting to see how this unified list does.