Arab party bloc splits ahead of Israeli elections


JERUSALEM — A bloc of Arab parties has split ahead of Israel’s fifth election in less than four years, a move that could dilute the minority’s political influence and help former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu return to power.

Israeli media reported late Thursday that the nationalist Balad party will run separately from the other two Joint List parties. If he does not reach the minimum threshold, Balad will not enter the next parliament and his votes will essentially be wasted.

Disunity could also dampen the overall participation of Israel’s Arab minority, which makes up 20% of Israel’s population.

Arab parties helped prevent Netanyahu from returning to power in recent elections. A fourth Arab party, the Islamist Ra’am, also left the Joint List and made history last year by joining a ruling coalition for the first time.

Arab citizens of Israel have close family ties to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza and identify broadly with their cause, leading to them being viewed with suspicion by many Jewish Israelis. Arab citizens have made significant progress in recent decades, in medicine and other fields, but still face widespread discrimination.

The November 1 election, like the last four, is set to be a tug of war between former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, and a constellation of parties from all political stripes who believe he is unfit to rule .

Israeli elections are contests between several political parties, none of which has ever won an outright majority. Candidates for prime minister must form coalitions with at least 61 seats out of the 120 members of the Knesset.

The Joint List rift would appear to benefit Netanyahu by diluting the influence of his most vocal opponents. However, without the Balad hardliner, the other two parties might be more open to joining a coalition led by current caretaker prime minister Yair Lapid, a center-left politician and Netanyahu’s main opponent. It is unclear, however, whether Lapid’s potential right-wing allies would agree to such an alliance.

A recent poll predicts a close race between Netanyahu and Lapid, with each political camp struggling to muster a majority. If both fail, the country will go to elections again.



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