A surplus vote-sharing agreement signed between Israel’s right-wing Likud party and the controversial Otzman Yehudit (Jewish Strength)party has come in for widespread condemnation, including from Israeli Palestinians.
In a strongly worded statement, the Haifa-based Mossawa Center for Arab rights called the political deal “an embrace of (Otzman Yehudit party leader Itamar) Ben-Gvir’s Kahanist platform that is built upon ruthless incitement, violence, and hatred of Palestinian Arabs.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he wanted Ben-Gvir and his party to join his coalition. Ben-Gvir was a part of the radical Kach and Kahane Chai party and endorsed the same policies.
“Ben-Gvir has called for the expulsion of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel who he claims are not loyal to the state,” the Mossawa Center statement said.
Jewish and anti-racist personalities and organizations from around the world have mostly remained tight-lipped on the issue.
Jafar Farah, director of the Mossawa Center, told Arab News: “Netanyahu’s decision to embrace, legitimize, and empower Ben-Gvir’s dangerous, hate-filled, and racist politics will demolish any pathway toward negotiations, let alone peace and justice.”
He said the situation threatened “not only the rights of Palestinian Arabs within Israel, in the West Bank, and in Gaza, but also threatens to destabilize the entire region. The international community must not allow such menacing forces to grow in power and influence.”
Tensions were also mounting in the Arab community following the splintering of the former four-party Joint List alliance, Farah added.
Mansour Abbas of the southern Islamic Movement has moved to create the Muwahad list and it remains unclear if the splintered list will be able to pass the high 3.25 percent threshold to qualify for entry to the Knesset.
“As it stands now, we would be lucky if we can get over 50 percent turnout of Arab voters which will mean in the best-case scenario that the Joint List will get seven seats and the new Muwahad list will get 4 seats,” Farah said.
Currently, the Joint List has 15 members in the Knesset due to the 63 percent turnout in the last elections, but Farah predicted a low turnout due to acrimony between the two groups.
“The Joint List is claiming that Mansour Abbas will join a Netanyahu government while the Muwahad is accusing the Joint List of supporting gay rights,” he added. This, he said, was causing religious and social tensions that were likely to affect the turnout at the next general election.
Unlike the surplus sharing agreement between many Israeli Zionist parties the two Arab lists have not signed a similar deal.